An alleged police brutality case involving Goodyear officials made a court appearance again before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier in May.
The court received received oral arguments May 17 in a case brought by Renee Armenta from 2018.
On Sept. 6, 2018, Armenta was pulled over near Dysart Road and Van Buren Street by Goodyear Police after an officer discovered she was driving with a revoked license. During an initial traffic stop, Armenta was asked to step out of the vehicle and that she was being placed under arrest.
Shortly after she was informed, the officer’s body camera showed Armenta pulling away and sitting back down in her vehicle. The officer then was seen grabbing Arementa by the arm, and slight pulling occurs from both parties. Then the officer punches her in the face and drags her away from the vehicle.
Before the struggle, Armenta repeatedly asked what she did to be arrested.
During the hearing, Judge Daniel Collins told Goodyear attorneys he found that situation concerning.
“If he had just said right out of the box, I'm arresting you for a revoked license, she might have been compliant, he just won't tell her,” he said. “And she just clearly is sort of reacts, 'What's happening, what's going on.' And she doesn't use any force against him. She does sort of back away and sits in the car and to that extent, but the resistance is totally passive. She's not aggressive toward him at all.”
Larry Crown, an attorney representing Goodyear, told the appeals court judges that under the Fourth Amendment, an officer is not required to inform individuals why they’re being arrested, and the act of telling them might provoke resistance.
“Often, in his experience that will actually trigger resistance, you start getting in debate, and you start having resistance right there,” he said. “He's got probable cause not just to stop the vehicle but to arrest her. And at that moment, he makes his choices as to how to best get her under control.”
According to Crown, Armenta had a passenger in her vehicle that matched the police descriptions of a suspect in the area — making the situation more tense for the Goodyear officer.
“Neither tackling nor punching a suspect, to make an arrest necessarily constitutes excessive force,” he said. “Now with that holding that holding is telling police that this police training technique of punching someone to distract them is actually on its face, not per se, unconstitutional. It's not per se unreasonable.”
Eric Valenzuela, an attorney representing Armenta, said the officer’s actions were based on her race.
“This is clearly a case of racial profiling by his own admission, he says, 'I see a Hispanic guy, he gots tattoos on his face, he got piercings, he looks like he’s in a gang,'” he said. “'I'm going to stop this guy.' This is not a person wanted for an armed robbery or some serious crime. This was a revoked license. And I submit to you when he tries to pull her over, she's compliant.”
The court did not say when it would decide on the matter.
Armenta previously lost a federal court case on the grounds that the Goodyear officer didn't exceed a Fourth Amendment standard and did not inflict intentional emotional distress.
"As for the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, Arizona law requires the underlying actions be 'so outrageous in character and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency' such that they would 'be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.' Mintz v. Bell Atl. Sys. Leasing Int'l, Inc.," wrote Judge Roslyn O. Silver, in the 2022 federal court case. "It was not outrageous and extreme for Ross to punch and drag Armenta in connection with her actively resisting a valid arrest, particularly because the level of force used was constitutionally permissible."