Colorado police have admitted that it was “evident there was an overreach by our police officers” and have apologized to a resident after arresting him at a park on Sunday in front of his 6-year-old daughter for allegedly violating social distancing rules.
Matt Mooney, 33, was playing T-ball with his wife and daughter at Donelson Park when three police officers from the Brighton Police Department approached him, he said.
Mooney said he refused to give officers his identification because he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong, adding that his daughter was fearful and pleaded for him not to be arrested.
“She’s like, ‘Daddy, I don’t want you to get arrested.’ 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,” Mooney said.
Officers responded to the park at 4:30 p.m. over the weekend after a concerned resident reported that a group of 12 to 15 people were playing softball, according to a statement by the City of Brighton on Tuesday.
“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 statement said.
Park signs indicated the park was closed but specified “in groups of no more than 4 persons, parks remain open for walking, hiking, biking, running and similar activities.” Mooney was in a group of three.
He says the officers were violating social distancing rules by not wearing proper safety attire during the arrest.
“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.
“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,” he added.
Mooney said that although he spent about 10 minutes in the back of a patrol vehicle, he is still upset that he had to endure that.
Acting City Manager Marv Falconburg apologized to Mooney over the phone but Mooney declined to meet in person with Falconburg and Brighton Police Commander Frank Acosta for a formal apology.
The police department is currently conducting an internal investigation into what led to Mooney’s arrest but the city said “We are deeply sorry for the events that took place on Sunday and the impact on Mr. Mooney, his family, and the community.”
“As officers are required to interpret several layers of state public health orders and local closures as they change, there may have been a misunderstanding about the park closure,” the statement 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.”