(CN) – The Montana Supreme Court ruled for the city of Bozeman and its police in a negligence lawsuit brought by a gas station clerk who claimed the responding officers stood outside while she was raped at knifepoint and then briefly arrested her after apprehending the rapist.
Leah Gonzales managed to dial 911 after Jose Mario Gonzalez-Menjivar pulled a knife on her and demanded money from the safe at the Town Pump in Bozeman, Mont.
When officers arrived, the store was dark. At times, they could see a pair of shadows in the building. After their arrival, Menjivar took Gonzales to the store’s restroom and raped her.
When Menjivar left the building, he was arrested by the officers outside. The police also handcuffed Gonzales, who was wearing a Town Pump apron, before she said she had been raped.
Gonzales sued the Bozeman Police Department and the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Department for negligence and false arrest. The trial court ruled for the officers, and the state’s high court affirmed the decision.
“(The officers) did not know who was inside or how many people were involved,” Justice McGrath wrote. “They had no information about the weapons involved and had no way to determine in that time what reaction they would provoke by confronting those inside or forcible entering the building.”
Gonzales also lost on her claim of false arrest.
“Gonzales did not immediately show herself when officers ordered anyone in the building to come out,” McGrath wrote.
“We decline to adopt a rule that would require officers in a similar situation to assume that anyone else at the scene of the crime is a victim.”
Menjivar pleaded guilty to rape, robbery and aggravated kidnapping. He was sentenced to 180 years in Montana State Prison.