Colorado police issued an apology to a father who was arrested in front of his young child for allegedly violating a social distancing order.
The Brighton Police Department admitted “an overreach by our police officers” on Sunday when Matt Mooney was placed in handcuffs before the eyes of his 6-year-old daughter for playing ball with her in a park.
Matt Mooney maintains that he did nothing to warrant the extreme actions of Brighton Police who accused him of violating the state’s social distancing guidelines on Sunday, and wanted an apology for being arrested while the officers were actually more of a health threat, KDVR reported.
“If we’re going to go ahead and start arresting people for no reason in front of their 6-year-old daughter, you’re just going to cause more problems later on,” Mooney said, expressing his shock over the incident that unfolded as he was playing ball in the park with his daughter and wife.
At a time when inmates are being released from prisons for fear they will be infected with the coronavirus, law-abiding citizens who venture out for air or exercise during the global pandemic are coming face-to-face with law enforcement and even being tattled on by neighbors.
Officers arrived at Donelson Park on Sunday after someone called to report a “large group of people” had gathered, according to KDVR. About 12-15 people were at the park playing softball when the officers arrived, according to police, and they were asked to leave.
“Although the officers asked them to disperse due to the park being closed, which was incorrect, disbursement was needed due to the state’s public health order regarding group gathering,” the Brighton Police Department said.
Though a sign at the park read, “Closed,” it also noted that “in groups of no more than 4 persons, parks remain open for walking, hiking, biking, running and similar activities.”
Mooney was at the park with only his wife and daughter when the officers approached, and said he did not want to give the police his identification as he felt he had done nothing wrong, reassuring his daughter that nothing would happen to him.
“She’s like, ‘Daddy, I don’t want you to get arrested,'” Mooney said of his daughter.
“At this point, I’m thinking, ‘There’s no way they’re going to arrest me, this is insane.’ I’m telling her, ‘Don’t worry, Daddy’s not going to get arrested. I’ve done nothing wrong. Don’t worry about it,’ and then they arrest me,” he told KDVR.
Video of the incident was captured by former Brighton City Councilman Kirby Wallin who could be heard saying, “He’s being taken by the Brighton police for playing softball with his daughter in an empty park.”
“I find it hard to believe with all the things going on in our communities, the only way to resolve a situation like this was to handcuff a father in front of his daughter,” Wallin told KDVR, saying there should be an investigation.
After about 10 minutes in the back of a patrol car, Mooney was released but still felt he was owed an apology, contending that it was the three police officers who were actually violating social distancing orders.
“During the contact, none of the officers had masks on, none of them had gloves on, and they’re in my face handcuffing me, they’re touching me,” he said.
The police department posted a statement of sorts on Facebook but did not mention Mooney directly or give specific details about what had happened.
“The Brighton Police Department is conducting an investigation into a situation that occurred late this afternoon at Donelson Park. This is an active investigation and so we are unable to provide additional information until the investigation is complete,” it read.
By Tuesday, there was a statement about an “internal investigation.”
“The Brighton Police Department is currently conducting an internal investigation into what led to officers detaining Mr. Mooney while responding to the complaint. While the investigation sorts through the different versions of what took place by witnesses who were at the park, it is evident there was an overreach by our police officers,” the police department said.
“It is imperative that we improve communication with our front line first responders so they are up to date on the latest rules in place regarding COVID-19 for addressing public safety. This is an opportunity for us to come together and do better for the community. We are deeply sorry for the events that took place on Sunday and the impact on Mr. Mooney, his family, and the community,” the department added.
Brighton City Manager Marv Falconburg reportedly called Mooney on Tuesday to set up a meeting with BPD Cmdr. Frank Acosta so he could offer an apology on behalf of the police department.
“Falconburg conveyed an apology, however, Mr. Mooney has declined the offer for an in-person meeting,” Brighton Police told KDVR.
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