She Wanted to Be a Cop, Till a Cop Did the Unimaginable
City settles lawsuit after detective assaulted teen intern in 2011
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2016 2:20 PM CDT
This Oct. 12, 2015 file photo Diana Guerrero poses for a photo in Las Cruces, NM.   (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan,File)
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(Newser) – The city of La Cruces, NM, has agreed to pay $3 million to settle a federal civil lawsuit brought by a woman who was sexually assaulted by a police detective when she was a high-school intern with the department. During the trial, Diana Guerrero, who had aspired to become a police officer, told the court, "It had never occurred to me that a person who had earned a badge would do this," the AP reports, noting Guerrero agreed to be named. According to a Justice Department press release, former Las Cruces police Detective Michael Garcia took Guerrero, then 17, on a ride-along to visit a crime scene in May 2011. Rather than take her directly back to the station, he "drove her to a secluded location where he sexually assaulted her." The press release notes he was "assigned to a unit that focused on child abuse and sex crimes investigations" at the time.

Garcia, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to nine years in prison in late 2014. Guerrero reported the assault, which left her feeling "like a piece of trash" in 2013, after bumping into a female detective that year who asked why she had ended the internship. "I just blurted it out," Guerrero told KVIA. "I am most happy and satisfied that this lawsuit brought to light a cesspool of sexual violence and harassment that exists in police departments across this country," Guerrero tells the AP. Indeed, an investigation by the news outlet found that, during a six-year period, about 1,000 officers were fired for a range of sex crimes; it calls that number "unquestionably an undercount." The City Council still has to approve the settlement, according to KRWG, which is expected to happen Monday. KVIA reports Guerrero now intends to pursue a career in nutrition.