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Cop Prank Blamed for Drunken Driver’s Death

CINCINNATI (CN) - A drunken driver was run over and killed after police who arrested him left him handcuffed in a Taco Bell parking lot, his survivors claim in court.

Michael Bear, administrator of the estate of Uriel Juarez-Popoca, sued Delaware County, nine Delaware County deputy sheriffs and Ohio State Trooper Sean Carpenter, in Federal Court.

Juarez-Popoca "made the mistake of driving a vehicle while intoxicated" on July 28, 2012, according to the lawsuit. It adds: "Violating all of their own rules of conduct and safety, defendants ridiculed Mr. Popoca as a Mexican, ultimately leaving him disoriented and intoxicated in a dangerous area where he was predictably killed by a passing motorist."

After being arrested, Juarez had trouble communicating with Deputies Hughes and Beggs because he was "impaired and speaking a combination of Spanish and broken English," according to the complaint. They pulled him from his vehicle and handcuffed him.

Standard protocol would have involved a blood or urine test, followed by detention or release to the custody of a family member who could safely transport him home, but the cops violated protocol because of Juarez's Hispanic origin, the complaint states.

"The defendants mocked and ridiculed Mr. Popoca based on his Hispanic or Mexican national origin. Defendant Trooper Carpenter failed to stop the discriminatory behavior of the deputies.

"Defendant Deputy Beggs then advised defendant Trooper Carpenter that they were going to transport Mr. Popoca to a nearby Taco Bell," the complaint states. Soon after, "Deputy Beggs called defendant Deputy Matt Williams and explained that Mr. Popoca 'had no idea what is going on' and that they were simply going to drop him off at a Taco Bell," the complaint states.

"Defendant Deputy Matt Williams did not protest or take any action to protect Mr. Popoca."

The complaint adds: "These defendants did not follow ... protocol with respect to Mr. Popoca. Rather, they placed Mr. Popoca in handcuffs and dropped him off at a Taco Bell as a perverse joke, even though Mr. Popoca was obviously disoriented and confused. From there Mr. Popoca predictably walked back onto the roadway and was killed. ...

"Mr. Popoca was disoriented and confused at the Taco Bell. He wandered into the store and also wandered outside. He walked in the drive-through area as well."

The manager of the Taco Bell called the sheriff's department at Juarez's behest and asked that officers be sent to detain him, but when they arrived nearly a half hour later, he had wandered onto a nearby state highway, according to the lawsuit.

Minutes later, "several 911 calls were made stating there was a man walking in the roadway, weaving in and out of traffic, on U.S. 36 near the Alum Creek Bridge ... which is approximately 1.25 miles from the Taco Bell where the defendants had abandoned Mr. Popoca."

A subsequent 911 call reported that the man had been struck by a vehicle, and "Mr. Popoca died from blunt impacts to the head, neck and trunk due to a motor vehicle collision."

Juarez's estate seeks compensatory and punitive damages for due process violations and wrongful death.

Defendants Carpenter, Hughes and Beggs were fired and eventually convicted of crimes for their involvement in Juarez's death, according to the complaint.

The estate is represented by Alphonse Gerhardstein with Gerhardstein and Branch.

Hispanic surnames may be double, with the second surname the matronymic. Juarez Popoca's "last name" (patronymic) was Juarez; his mother's maiden name was Popoca. Hence he would have been called Juarez, just as former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari was known as Salinas, not as Gortari.

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