Police: Arlington Officer Assaulted During Tow Truck Dispute

Three charged this week in Forest Glen community incident.

Janet Thomas, 47, of Arlington | Photo courtesy Arlington County Police Department
Janet Thomas, 47, of Arlington | Photo courtesy Arlington County Police Department

A woman who called the police over a tow truck dispute this week ended up being taken to jail, along with two acquaintances, after an officer was assaulted, according to the Arlington County Police Department.

Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck told Patch that 47-year-old Janet Thomas was at an apartment in the 700 block of South Greenbrier Street at about 11:16 p.m. Tuesday when she noticed her vehicle was getting towed.

The vehicle wasn't displaying a parking decal for the apartment complex, Sternbeck said.

The woman ran outside and confronted the tow truck driver as he was attaching her vehicle to the truck's hook. An argument ensued over whether she would have to pay a fee or else have her car towed.

During the dispute, Thomas got inside her vehicle to prevent it from being towed and called police, Sternbeck said.

When an officer arrived, he told the woman multiple times to get out of her car. She did not, Sternbeck said, and attempted to drive away, only to realize she was blocked in the parking space by the tow truck.

The officer attempted to remove Thomas from the vehicle, at which point she began screaming for help from her friends, Sternbeck said. Francisco Guerra Henriquez, 31, and 33-year-old Cruz Guerra Henriquez, who live at the residence Thomas was visiting, came to her assistance, according to police.

"She continues to struggle and fight with the officer. The two acquaintances come to her defense, and one physically tries to take the cuffs away from the officer" and pulled on the officer's arm, Sternbeck said.

The officer called for assistance. More police arrived and took all three people into custody.

Thomas and Cruz Guerra Henriquez were charged with obstruction of justice, and Francisco Guerra Henriquez was charged with assault and battery of a police officer, Sternbeck said.

No one was injured in the struggle.

Hawa Coulibaly December 12, 2013 at 08:47 PM
It is never ok to assault police officers ...especially not when you called them to assist you when you knew you were wrong to begin with.
Don Beale December 13, 2013 at 10:02 AM
Might not have been bad idea to call for back-up when the woman refused to leave the vehicle. What with the "swarming' tactics we have all seen, that may have prevented an physical confrontation.
Hawa Coulibaly December 13, 2013 at 10:15 AM
Probably an inexperienced officer who thought he can handle her alone until her two friends came along....
John Strother December 13, 2013 at 11:39 AM
Since when is it legal for an officer to pull someone from a car? She sounds like she was a visitor to those in the apartment. Then of course she wouldn't have a parking permit. Did the apartment complex have any visitor parking areas? Do they have signs stating that visitors will be towed? Where would a visitor park, if they tow all cars without a parking permit?
Hawa Coulibaly December 13, 2013 at 11:55 AM
"The officer attempted to remove Thomas from the vehicle, at which point she began screaming for help from her friends[.]" doesn't quite state that the officer pulled her.... Since when is it legal to disobey police officer's orders ? Every apartment complex that require permit , has a sign stating that non permit holders will be towed. She should have followed the rules and gotten a visitor pass!
Don Beale December 13, 2013 at 04:44 PM
Your comment suggests that someone is justifying her actions in refusing to leave her car. No one here has said that. I want my police department to do all it can to prevent a situation from escalating. It appears that this officer did not do that. You message also suggests that if a civilian does not "act right", anything they get they deserve. I beg to disagree.
Hawa Coulibaly December 13, 2013 at 04:58 PM
Actually I am not suggesting any attempt to justify her actions nor am I justifying the actions of the officer. If you read their policy, there is a point in which they can attempt to remove... The method in which he did so is not clear. At this point we do not know whether he pulled her or just opened the door of the car. The story does not give full detail and since none of us were there all we can do is speculate. After reading the article my opinion is that she was either drunk or arrogant to think that she can sit in her car and refuse orders to get out when there is a tow truck attached ready to go and police telling her to get out...
Santi Lara December 14, 2013 at 09:46 AM
Cops do not have the right to do whatever they want, just because he gives an order it doesn't mean you automatically have to comply. Unless he has a warrant or suspects the person of having committed a crime, then he can attempt to remove the person out of his or her car. When they swear to serve and protect, it should mean the public, not their badge. There are many ethical, professional and respectful cops and there are also many that turn into almighty jerks when they get their badge. Arlington has both, unfortunately.
Billy mead December 14, 2013 at 04:45 PM
I was actually there and witnessed the whole thing. The officer tried for an hour talking very respectful and calm. He explained her car was trespassing as well as the property manager who was there. The owner of the car was very hostile the entire time. The officer didn't ask her to get out of the car until she started throwing stuff at officer which he allowed only once. The officer explained if she throws anything else at him he would arrest her. So she did. Then officer removed her from vehicle and while trying to put handcuffs on she struggled. Her boyfriend ran up and knocked handcuffs out of officers hands. That's why he was arrested. Then 3rd party ran up and also tried to pull owner of car away from officer. She was also later arrested when back up showed up. All 3 went to jail. It could have been prevented if owner if car would have payed me $25 to put her car down. Instead I impounded her car she went to jail and then she had to pay $125 to get her car back next day. And yes lot her car was in has signs at entrance stating permit parking only 24hrs a day. Visitor parking is available only with visitor pass. She had neither. Her argument was she was only there for 30 mins and she didn't need any permit for that amount time. She was wrong.
Don Beale December 14, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Billy. I, for one, appreciate the details that you have provided. I would only add that I still do not understand why the officer did not call for back-up as soon as the woman began throwing things. Seems like the back-up made a huge difference, and we should all agree that in Arlington back-up us always available and rarely far away.
Hawa Coulibaly December 14, 2013 at 05:40 PM
Thanks for te details Billy.... Don you have a point that backup should have been called once she made it clear that she was not going to get out of her car...
Santi Lara December 15, 2013 at 02:35 AM
Billy, thanks for the clarification. My point still stands based on these supplied facts. Prior to any alleged throwing of objects, the cop, being a law enforcement officer, should know about the law he is enforcing. He told the woman that she was trespassing?. Trespassing becomes a crime once the subject willfully remains on property she was told not to be at. Before that there was no basis for trespassing, she should have been given the opportunity lo leave once she knew she could not be there without a permit. Cops will use anything to threaten and then justify their actions. She should have not thrown anything, but just remain in the car.
Santi Lara December 15, 2013 at 02:40 AM
By the way, the report clearly indicates that the officer ordered the woman to get out of her car as soon as he arrived. Then he tried to remove her from the car. Not a good move, we all need to become more aware of our rights.
Hawa Coulibaly December 15, 2013 at 07:32 AM
Santi, you are actually wrong. What you state is true when a property has no visible signs making trespassers aware that they will be towed.... Once the tow truck was attached to her car ready to tow, she was should have just paid their fee and prevented all of this, that is the right that she had. The police officer's error was attempting to remove her and not calling backup quick enough....
Santi Lara December 16, 2013 at 12:41 AM
Hawa, I'll agree with you that the easiest thing would have been to pay the drop fee of $25.00, but I would not consider that trespassing. Once this woman was invited by the residents, she should abided by their rules about parking, entrance, etc. But for a crime to occur, it has to be a willful act to be where you are told not to. Prior to that it was merely a civil matter between the apartment complex management and the driver. True that if I was her, I would have paid the fee, it would have been a small price to avoid all the aggravation. My main observation in all this is the cops' actions.
John Strother December 17, 2013 at 03:20 PM
as per the article : The officer attempted to remove Thomas from the vehicle, at which point she began screaming for help from her friends, Sternbeck said. Francisco Guerra Henriquez, 31, and 33-year-old Cruz Guerra Henriquez, who live at the residence Thomas was visiting, came to her assistance, according to police. so ok how did the officer attempted to remove her? by force?


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