Hillsboro PD officer sues federal agents for 'unlawful arrest'
A Hillsboro police officer is suing federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents, alleging an unlawful arrest and violation of his civil rights.
Edgar Garfias, who has worked for the Hillsboro Police Department for more than four years, says that he was pulled over on Highway 8 by two ICE agents on Aug. 5, 2020. His complaint, filed this month in federal district court, says he was driving home from work and that the agents mistook him for someone else when they stopped him and placed him under arrest.
He was driving along the highway, signed locally as Southeast Tualatin Valley Highway, when a truck driving behind Garfias turned on red and blue lights. As he pulled over, Garfias says his car was boxed in by another vehicle that pulled over in front of his vehicle, too.
The two agents, Corey Heaton and John Does, told Garfias that they had a warrant for his arrest and had been surveilling him and his family for days, the complaint states. One of them asked Garfias if he had a "legal right to be in this country" and the other asked him where he was born.
Garfias replied that he was born "here" and that he was an officer with the Hillsboro Police Department. His complaint says that he showed the agents his police identification. Still, he was asked to exit his vehicle and place his hands behind his back.
The agents showed Garfias a picture of the man they were looking for, who "had no resemblance to" Garfias, the complaint says, "other than they appeared to be of the same race."
Garfias's complaint asserts that there are significant differences between him and the man the agents were looking for, including that they had different birthdays, different names and different addresses. The man ICE was reportedly looking for lived in Forest Grove, while Garfias resides in Cornelius.
Once the misunderstanding was apparent, the agents let Garfias go and apologized, the complaint says.
The complaint also said that Garfias had trouble sleeping for several days following the incident, "due to the stress and trauma related to his unlawful arrest."
Garfias says he knew that he was close to being sent to a federal detention center with no means to communicate with his family. He also worried that he could be deported.
The lawsuit seeks damages from the agents for arresting Garfias without probable cause and for unreasonable seizure.
While the parties involved in the lawsuit couldn't be reached in time for this report, the Hillsboro Police Department issued the following statement on the matter: "Officer Garfias is a valued member of our department and we fully support him. Hillsboro Police Department values the service and dedication Officer Garfias gives to the community every day. Officer Garfias's lawsuit is a personal matter."
The alleged incident is similar to one that occurred in 2017 outside the Washington County Courthouse, in which ICE agents stopped and questioned Isidro Andrade-Tafolla, a Forest Grove resident, U.S. citizen, and county employee of more than 20 years, before realizing they had the wrong person.
Andrade-Tafolla filed a federal lawsuit in 2020 — days after Garfias' run-in with ICE agents, which was not publicly reported at the time — alleging he was wrongfully detained.
ICE has clashed with the Hillsboro Police Department in the past. Earlier in 2020, ICE served the department with a subpoena, seeking information on a suspect, in an apparent attempt to skirt an Oregon statute that prohibits local law enforcement resources from being used to enforce federal immigration law.
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