Juneau man’s arrest raises questions about racial profiling

Juneau community members participating in a June 6 rally against police violence and systemic racism following the death of George Floyd. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

A Juneau man is accusing the police department of using excessive force and racially profiling him during a recent traffic stop.

Jose Ignacio Manzo told his story during a June meeting of the Juneau Assembly dedicated to issues of race and policing in the capital city. He believes police confused him with another man with a Spanish surname who was arrested earlier that morning.

Manzo was pulled over early in the morning of June 7 on Highland Drive in the parking lot of the Breakwater Inn, but a police report puts the location 3 miles away on the 100 block of Savikko Road — as they were responding to a report of “shots fired.”

“I kind of freaked out a little bit because it was out of nowhere,” said Manzo. “He proceeded to pull me out of the vehicle with his gun [cocked] and telling me to get out of the vehicle and to drop whatever weapon I had on me which was not a weapon, it was my cell phone.”

Manzo says the officer who stopped him, Joseph Paden, was armed with an AR-15 and called another officer for backup. They proceeded to search Manzo’s car for drugs and weapons. Manzo says he did not give them explicit consent to do so.

“He said he and another officer had been assaulted, and I even told him, you know, ‘oh man, I’m sorry, had a rough day,'” Manzo said. “I felt bad for him.”

Juneau Police Deputy Chief David Campbell said Manzo was not racially profiled.

Deputy Chief David Campbell during a press conference on Sunday, December 29, 2019, at the Juneau Police Department headquarters in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

“I don’t know how he could be mistaken for somebody because when we saw the car drive by you couldn’t tell who the occupant was,” said Campbell.

While Manzo’s stop didn’t fall under racial profiling by the department’s standards, why Paden conducted the traffic stop with an assault rifle is still in question.

Public records indicate there was another incident earlier that night involving a man named Jesus Manuel Abad, close to the actual location of the shots fired incident that morning on Savikko Road. But by the time Manzo was stopped 3 miles away, Abad had already been arrested and was being processed in jail.

Professor Troy Payne with the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center defines racial profiling like this.

“Most people would interpret that to mean that police have inappropriately used race at some stage of the process,” said Payne.

He’s not directly involved in Manzo’s case, but he says from what he can tell, the reason Paden was armed with a rifle was because Manzo’s stop appears to be a felony or “high risk” traffic stop.

“If you’re the citizen involved in that encounter, and particularly when you’ve done nothing wrong, or at least as far as you know, you’ve done nothing wrong, it’s really scary,” said Payne.

Manzo was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. But when he learned that the officer was looking for another man with a Spanish name, Manzo assumed he had been racially profiled and asked Paden a series of questions about his use of an assault rifle. According to Manzo, Paden said he was “just checking up on some shots fired.”

“I did continue to ask him about shooting,” Manzo said. “The only thing he ended up saying last time, the last thing was, ‘Uh, if you want go ahead and sue me,’ but I was like, ‘I don’t want to sue you and I just want things to be right you know?’”

Manzo was detained and taken to Lemon Creek Correctional facility.

City Manager Rorie Watt says he’s read the police records and watched a video of the arrest. “I have not seen any evidence that he was racially profiled,” said Watt.

Watt says there are still legal issues in Manzo’s case that need to run their course and be adjudicated. As for Manzo, there are still unresolved issues. He says that since the arrest, he’s been left shaken.

“It’s just been restless nights, panic attacks, given anxiety attacks at night, just wake up in the middle of night sweating, thinking something’s happening or something’s gonna happen.”

KTOO reached out several times to Officer Joseph Paden about the incident. He said in an email on July 22 that he could not comment on the incident.

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