Family speaks out about Fortuna Police Department harassment

Image Caption: Angelica Herrera speaks out about Fortuna Police harassing her sons since October 2020. This took place at the demonstration for the year anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s murder at the Eureka Gazebo on March 13, 2021. | Photo by Lupita Rivera

The Herrera family had a press conference in Fortuna outside their home on March 24 where mother Angelica Herrera, son Lisandro Herrera and neighbors gathered to recount the family’s encounters and subsequent arrests by the Fortuna Police Department. 

Lisandro and Angelica were arrested in front of their home on Feb. 6 by Fortuna police. Lisandro said he was arrested on suspicion of not having a license, then because of a supposed warrant, both of which Lisandro denies. Angelica was arrested for intervening with the arrest.

While being detained, Lisandro said the officer used excessive force after the officer told him to stop resisting. 

“He’s like ‘stop resisting’, I was like, I can’t breathe, and I yelled that like five more times this time,” Lisandro said. “I was really thinking today was the day, and I was like, I really don’t want to be on a T-shirt. I really don’t.”

His younger brother, Jesse Herrera, had been recording the incident on his phone, as this wasn’t the first altercation the family had with the Fortuna police. 

Last year on Oct. 29, both Herrera brothers were arrested for multiple offenses. Lisandro, 23, said he and Jesse, 19, were approached by a police officer while seated in their driveway with the car turned off. 

Lisandro recalls being pulled out of his car and the officer throwing him up against the car detaining him. Lisandro said he was hurt in the process and the officer took this as resisting. Lisandro said the situation then escalated when Jesse tried to pull the officer off of him. 

Because of this first encounter, Jesse began to record when police tried to detain Lisandro on Feb. 6. Fearing things would take a turn for the worst, Jesse called his mother.

Angelica ran out of her house to her Lisandro’s defense. She noticed his face was turning purple because the arresting officer had his knee on Lisandro’s neck and was screaming at the officer to let go of her son. Lisandro and neighbors recall multiple officers coming after Angelica and arresting her.

“What they did was uncalled for,” Lisandro said. “My mom was protecting me the way they were supposed to.” 

The Fortuna Police Department is limited on the details they could comment on because both cases have been filed by the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office, Fortuna Chief of Police, Casey Day said. 

“We practice, and believe wholeheartedly in observing the rights of all people,” Day said. “Police officers at the same time, have to be able to take action in a reasonable and lawful impartial manner, without fear of allegations or reprisal.”

Neighbors of the Herrera family have spoken out about Fortuna PD profiling the family. One of the neighbors, Gabriella Cervantes, recalls an instance in which she was followed home by a police car. She doesn’t think this is a coincidence as she drives a similar car to Herrera’s. Latinx people make up 21% of Fortuna’s population, and neighbors assure Angelica is not the only one who’s had negative experiences.

Today, the Herrera family has spent almost $12,000 on bail and legal fees for events they think should not have happened in the first place. The family is hesitant to go about their day in fear of another altercation with the officers. 

Centro del Pueblo (CDP), is in close contact with the Herrera family. Brenda Pérez, executive director of CDP, sent a letter to Michelle Bushnell, supervisor of the Second District of Humboldt County, requesting a Zoom meeting to listen to the complaints of the community.

This is a developing story.
Feature image by Lupita Rivera

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