Wapato, WA - Wapato police officer Michael Campos has filed a $1.5 million dollar lawsuit against Mayor Tony Guzman. The lawsuit comes in response to comments made by Mayor Guzman in the days following what was later ruled a justified shooting of a domestic violence suspect involving officer Campos.
Several fellow officers have come to Campos' defense, worried for his safety due to the Mayor's comments. The city has until Feb. 7th to respond to the lawsuit.
The shooting happened when Wapato police officer Michael Campos and Sergeant Larry Ehrhardt responded to a domestic violence call on July 31, 2016 around 8:15 PM.
The officers got in to a confrontation with Mario Martinez Torres, 38, after arriving at the home on West 2nd. During a struggle in a small bathroom in the home, Torres attempted to disarm officer Campos and gained control of his taser. Reports show that Torres then shot Sgt. Ehrhardt with the taser and Campos, fearing for their safety, fired on Torres.
Family members and Torres's girlfriend, a Wapato councilwoman, were present in the home and argued against the officer's accounts. According to the Yakima Herald both officers were cleared of any wrongdoing by the Yakima County Prosecutor's Office and the Yakima County Sheriff's Office. Mayor Guzman, however, was not satisfied and pushed for a federal investigation. By his own account, Mayor Guzman was a friend of the suspect and knew Torres 'since he was a baby.'
Just days after the shooting Mayor Guzman made a fiery post on Facebook directed toward officer Campos. "...What a f*ing piec of st!! I hope they prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law!! He deserves to die in prison!! To MURDER someone in such a calus manor deserves to be in prison!!! If not executed for murdering him in front of his family!!!....You are a disgrace to the Wapato PD..." it read. When confronted with the post, they mayor replied, "Do I regret posting it? No. Should I have worded it different? Yes."
Interim police chief Dave Simmons wanted to return Campos to work much sooner than January 5th, the date when he ultimately returned, but he received push back from the mayor and calls for multiple investigations in to the shooting.
In October, Mayor Guzman said he spoke with Simmons on returning Campos to duty. “Let me put it this way, I spoke to Simmons last week. He told me he was bringing Campos back and I said I think that’s a big mistake,” Guzman said. “If he does, he’ll have to deal with it. And if the family shows up at my office, I will walk them across the street (to Simmons’ office) and he can deal with it.”
Simmons responded to the Mayor, saying he was being unreasonable. “I understand that the community is hurting and the family is hurting, and I feel for the community and the family that suffered the loss,” Simmons said. “On the other side of it is Officer Campos was cleared. We have the responsibility to protect an employee and safeguard his rights.”
Campos did return to work and has been working in a detective position to re-acclimate. Many fellow officers and Campos now fear for his safety since returning. According to the suit brought against the Mayor, his comments have created a hostile work environment for Campos. If the city chooses to ignore the suit, Campos will sue the city directly, according to his attorney
The comments spoken by the Mayor are a disgrace to his position. We hope to see justice on behalf of Officer Michael Campos.
Do you think that there's any excuse for Mayor Guzman's comments? We'd like to hear from you. Please let us know on our Facebook page or in the comments below.