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'Dumb-ass' Case Dropped

Norberto Villanuevas months-long ordeal with the Colorado Springs police is finally over sort of


Norberto Villanueva's months-long ordeal with the Colorado Springs police is finally over -- sort of.

As reported in the Nov. 1 Independent, Villanueva was cited with verbal harassment charges in October while shopping at Longs Drugs at 3960 Palmer Park Blvd. after he called private undercover security guard Mike McKee, who had falsely accused him of shoplifting, a "dumb-ass."

McKee -- the former radio talk-show host and notorious gay-basher and race-baiter -- was employed at the Albertson's next door, but was hanging out in Longs Drugs and fingered Villanueva to the cops, claiming that he had seen Villanueva shoplifting at the store.

Off-duty Colorado Springs Police Officer Jason Ragland subsequently searched an embarrassed Villanueva in the parking lot in front of the store, while his wife and children looked on, and found nothing.

McKee subsequently agreed to pursue charges of verbal harassment against Villanueva after the dumb-ass comment. Last week, McKee declined to comment on the charge, which was dropped in Colorado Springs municipal court in late December for lack of evidence.

The court case may be over, but Villanueva, a Puerto Ricanborn American who's lived in Colorado Springs about three years, believes he was racially profiled.

"This was a bullshit charge that caused me a lot of grief, a lot of time and money," said Villanueva, who says he paid a local attorney $600 to help him with the case.

In addition to the profiling, Villanueva said he was regularly stonewalled by police and City Hall in his efforts to protest his treatment. After the charges were filed against him, he filed a complaint against Ragland with the department's internal affairs division, which investigates fellow officers. In late November, he received a letter from internal affairs, notifying him that Ragland's actions had been deemed appropriate.

Colorado Springs police insist that racial profiling is not a problem among its rank and file but are unable to produce evidence to this effect; the department does not keep track of claims that individuals have been wrongly targeted because of the color of their skin in its databases. In fact, Villanueva said police refused to even write the words "racial profiling" on their paperwork -- which he specifically requested when he filed the complaint.

In addition, the department relies solely on its internal affairs division to investigate officer complaints, and unlike other cities, has no citizens' review panel or independent oversight to scrutinize police actions.

Villanueva said he would consider pursuing a civil rights case against Longs Drugs, Albertson's and the Colorado Springs Police Department, but admits he doesn't have deep enough pockets to mount a legal challenge.

"I'm indignant that this happened, but America is a country of haves and have-nots, and I'm somewhere in the middle," said Villanueva, who owns a financial planning company. "The right thing to do is to take some legal action, but I don't have the money to do this on my own."

Instead, Villanueva said he's hoping to start a community watchdog group to act on reports of racial profiling and police harassment filed by Colorado Springs' minority community.

In early January he met with UCCS sociology professor Dr. Louis Pancho McFarland, who read about Villanueva's case and decided to work with him. Villanueva said he and McFarland hope to have a meeting sometime in the coming weeks to gauge public support for their idea.

"There are too many minorities here for there to be such a void," Villanueva said about a lack of an independent citizen's oversight panel for police complaints in the Springs.

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