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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Mother Whose Newborn Was Kidnapped|Says State & City Officials Target Latinos

NASHVILLE (CN) - A mother who says she was stabbed nine times by a woman who stole her newborn son claims city and state officials then took away her other children without telling her why, and without a hearing or a court order. Maria Gurrola says it's part of a larger problem of the Nashville Police Department and the Tennessee Department of Children Services unfairly targeting Latinos.

In separate lawsuits against the city and state, Gurrola demands the records the agencies relied on when they decided to take the children away from her and her husband.

Gurrola says she was attacked at her Nashville home in the late morning of Sept. 29, after she visited the Women, Infants and Children office to get a breast pump. She was expecting a WIC representative to drop by and opened the door to a knock.

Instead of a WIC employee, Gurrola says, a woman who claimed to be from immigration said she was there to arrest her for lying to WIC.

Gurrola says she asked for the woman's identification and picked up the phone to call her husband, and the woman attacked her.

She claims the woman pulled a knotted string through her mouth and jerked out several lower teeth. When the struggle moved into the kitchen, Gurrola says, the woman beat her with a bottle and then stabbed her with a knife she found on a counter. Bleeding profusely, Gurrola says, she fell to the floor and "held her breath for an extended time with her eyes closed."

"When the attacker left the kitchen, Maria rushed out of the house through the rear door to get help. When she arrived hurriedly back at her house with a neighbor, the attacker was already gone with Yahir," her 4-day-old son, according to the complaint.

Gurrola says the kidnapper was found 3 days later, with her week-old son, in Aardmore, Ala. The woman faces federal kidnapping charges, but "local authorities have inexplicably not filed any state charges of attempted murder or aggravated assault," according to the complaint.

Just as inexplicably, Gurrola says, on the day she got her baby back, "DCS removed ... from the parents' custody the infant Yahir and his three siblings ... all done without a judicial hearing or judge's orders."

Gurrola's attorney, Elliott Ozment, accused city and state officials of "reckless and cavalier" behavior.

His complaint in Davidson County Chancery Court asks a series of pointed questions: "a. What was the incriminating 'compelling evidence' in the possession of legal authorities that made it necessary to seize the children on an emergency basis without first seeking even an ex parte hearing before a juvenile court judge or magistrate?

"b. If this incriminating evidence was so 'compelling', why did the FBI state at the time the decision to seize the children, 'As of now, there's no indication that there's an ongoing threat to the family?'

"c. Was the incriminating 'compelling evidence' any more than the tall tale of a desperate woman accused of kidnapping who was attempting to exonerate in some fashion her criminal conduct?

"d. What attempts were made to measure and weigh the seriousness and credibility of this incriminating 'compelling evidence'?

"e. If attempts were made to measure and weigh the seriousness and credibility of this incriminating 'compelling evidence' involving baby trafficking, how did DCS and MNPD officials assess and account for the viciousness of the near-fatal attack on the accused mother who was stabbed nine times and left for dead bleeding on her kitchen floor by the same person who claimed the existence of a baby-selling scheme?

"f. Was this case just another instance of DCS and the Metro Nashville Police Department anxious to believe the worst about Latinos on the basis of rumors and unsubstantiated allegations and unfounded suspicions?"

Ozment, an immigration lawyer, claims that in other cases, "serious and credible" sources showed that the Department of Children Services seized Latino children from their homes without due process or good cause and held them for extended periods, "in many cases due to DCS' willful and continued ignorance of Latin family culture." He claims that DCS will not return children to parents who are undocumented, "using as an excuse that the parents' background cannot be adequately checked without a Social Security Number."

Ozment claims the defendant agencies sensationalized the Gurrolas' case, publicizing it in the media, falsely, in an "attempt to paint these Latino parents as child abusers and baby traffickers."

He claims that DCS employees told The Tennessean newspaper: "It's for the children's safety" and, "The baby and his siblings were taken for safety reasons."

Ozment says a police spokesman went even further, stating: "There remain serious unanswered questions in this investigation, perhaps the most significant of which is, why was the particular child and this particular mother chosen among all other newborns and new mothers?"

Days after those comments were made, Gurrola and her husband got their children back. DCS filed a Notice of Voluntary Non-Suit and all complaints against the Gurrola family were dropped, according to the complaint.

Ozment wants to see the case records. He claims Nashville Police claims it cannot release the records until there are "no pending/ongoing prosecution or appeals," though there are no such prosecutions or appeals, and the police know it.

He claims the DCS simply denied his request for records.

In both cases, Ozment and the Gurrolas want to see the records, and they want court costs.

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