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Monday, September 28, 2020

80 police swarm Austin woman during traffic stop prompted by 'anti-police rhetoric' on her vehicle

Posted By on Mon, Sep 28, 2020 at 10:18 AM

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Turns out that in these politically turbulent times, even exercising freedom of speech can land you in hot water.

Some 80 cops — along with military vehicles, a bomb-squad robot and drones — swarmed a woman in downtown Austin after a state trooper ran her plates because her SUV had "anti law enforcement rhetoric" on its windows, The Intercept reports.



The two-hour standoff, which occurred in late July, ended with police dispatching a bomb-squad robot, which smashed the Toyota 4Runner's windows. A pair of armored personnel carriers crushed the vehicle's bumpers before the 24-year-old head shop employee was taken into custody.

The driver, Lauren Mestas, a first-generation Mexican American, had reported the vehicle stolen after she couldn't remember where she'd parked it. She retracted the report eight hours later in a call The Intercept accessed public records to verify.

Even so, DPS and Austin police said the SUV showed up on the trooper's computer as stolen, and officers escalated the situation after the panicked Mestas stopped in the middle of the lane instead of fully pulling to the shoulder.

"Instead of approaching the 4Runner, they drew their service weapons and took cover behind the open doors of their patrol vehicles," wrote reporter Seth Harp, who just happened to cruise by the incident during a morning bike ride.

"According to [the] incident report, it was an 'HRS,' or high-risk stop, also known as a felony stop: a procedure employed when an officer believes that someone in the car has committed a serious crime and could be dangerous."

Ultimately, officers released Mestas without charges and reunited her with her unharmed Chihuahua, which was in the 4Runner during the incident. Police returned the smashed SUV but offered no compensation for the damage.

As the Grits for Breakfast blog pointed out Monday morning, the incident occurred near the newsroom of the Austin-American Statesman, which still hasn't reported on the traffic stop.

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