Latino couple allege racial discrimination by Montana Highway Patrol after stop

BILLINGS — A Washington state couple alleges they were racially profiled by a Montana Highway Patrol trooper after they were pulled over for speeding and their car was later seized and searched for money. dope.

Luis Wright and Ana Guizar, who are both Latinos, were driving through Montana on the morning of July 22 when they were stopped on Interstate 90 in Laurel by MHP Trooper David Moon after clocking them at 82 miles per hour in a 65 mph zone. .

Moon, who is white, first approached Wright from the passenger side where Wright told the soldier they were traveling to see family in Chicago. Moon then asked Guizar, the driver and owner of the white 2016 BMW 525, to come back with him in his patrol car, where he asked him a number of questions.

This is not standard procedure, according to MHP, but is left to the individual soldier’s discretion.

Photo courtesy of Luis Wright

Ana Guizar (left) and Luis Wright allege racial discrimination by the Montana Highway Patrol after they were pulled over for speeding and their car was seized and searched for drugs.

In the patrol car, Moon told Guizar he was going to give him a speeding warning, but then asked to ask him more questions.

“Are you okay with that?” he said.

“Uh, I guess so,” Guizar replied.

Moon then told Guizar that he was part of the MHP Interdiction Team, whose goal is to stop drugs from crossing into Montana. It is unclear what prompted this series of questions.

“Did someone put heroin in the vehicle?” He asked.

“No,” she replied.

“No meth in the vehicle?” he continued.

“There’s nothing in the car,” she replied.

Watch extended dashcam footage of the disputed traffic stop below:

MHP extended dash cam footage of a contested traffic stop

“No cocaine in the vehicle?” »

“There is nothing in the car.”

“No Fentanyl pills in the vehicle?” »

“There is nothing in the car.”

Moon then asks to search the vehicle.

“No,” Guizar replied, shaking his head at the car’s sun visor camera.

“She didn’t think it was right,” Wright said in an interview with MTN. “I asked him, ‘Why are you giving us so much trouble? There’s no reason for you to keep talking about this other than the racial profiling of us. “”

MHP profiling

Photo courtesy of Montana Highway Patrol

Ana Guizar sits inside MHP Trooper David Moon’s car as Moon asks her about drugs inside his car during a traffic stop on Interstate 90 near Laurel on the morning of July 22, 2022.

Highway Patrol released a copy of Trooper Moon’s account of the incident to MTN News, where he explained his reasons for requesting to search the vehicle.

“During the stop, I had noticed how quickly the driver could respond to questions when I asked her simple questions,” Moon wrote. “When I asked about the trip or the illegal items, she would change. It was different from the normal motoring audience.

Moon added that he noticed Wright pretending to sleep in the passenger seat.

After Guizar got out of Moon’s patrol car, the soldier did not allow the couple to get back into their vehicle. Instead, he pulled out his K9, Sammy, to do an outdoor search around the car. MHP says a soldier must have a probable reason to run a dog during a stop.

Sammy immediately jumped onto the open passenger window with his front paws, then sat down in front of the passenger door. Moon then took her back to her vehicle and called a K9 alert.

“Sammy indicated the presence of illegal drug odors coming from the open front passenger window,” Moon wrote in his account.

MHP profiling dog

Photo courtesy of Montana Highway Patrol

MHP Private David Moon conducts an outdoor search with his K-9 Sammy of Ana Guizar’s car after pulling her over for speeding on Interstate 90 near Laurel on July 22, 2022.

Moon then informed Wright and Guizar that he was seizing their car and would seek a search warrant. Another MHP soldier who had arrived at the scene halfway through the stop then drove Wright and Guizar to Bernie’s Diner in downtown Billings, where they were told to wait.

“He wouldn’t let us get our cell phones back. He wouldn’t let us get our money back. Nothing,” Wright said. “They told me to call (them) later to pick up the car, and I said, ‘How do you want me to call you? You took my cell phone.'”

After the couple had breakfast they were eventually picked up by an MHP officer and taken to a hotel in Billings West End and paid for a room themselves. District Judge Ashley Harada signed a search warrant for the car at 2:17 p.m., and the car was returned to the couple around 6 p.m. with no items seized.

The couple were, however, carrying around $7,000 in cash in the vehicle, according to Highway Patrol.

Wright says the delay caused them to miss an important event the next day.

“We are not going to have our funeral tomorrow because this officer has abused his power,” he said. “He’s basically hurting us because we didn’t allow him to search the car. The public needs to know what’s going on because it’s unfair. This is racial profiling at its worst.”

sergeant. MHP’s Jay Nelson released a statement on the incident to MTN.

“Illegal drugs are coming to Montana at an alarming rate, and increasingly along the Seattle-Chicago transportation corridor,” Nelson said. “Criminal Interdiction Team soldiers are trained to identify behavior and fact patterns that may indicate drug trafficking. In this case… the soldier has determined that there is a probable reason to seek a warrant search for the vehicle.

Wright and Guizar say they plan to take legal action.

MHP profiling

Photo courtesy of Montana Highway Patrol

MHP Trooper David Moon asked Ana Guizar to leave her car and sit in her patrol car to answer questions after Guizar was pulled over for speeding on Interstate 90 in Laurel on July 22, 2022.

Read the soldier’s search warrant request below:

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