Castle Rock Police Face the High Court

March 21 2005, 11:43 AM

As we wrote Saturday, the case of Jessica Gonzales against the City of Castle Rock was argued today in the Supreme Court. Gonzales is suing the police department because she had a restraining order against her estranged husband Simon at the time he killed their three children. She says the police were obligated to arrest him. If the Court rules in favor of Gonzales, the implications will be great. Some additional facts are available here. Some I find interesting: Mr. Gonzales had limited visitation rights. The police say they were unaware that he had ever shown indications of being violent towards the children. Yet, Mr. Gonzales took the children from Mrs. Gonzales' yard on a night outside his scheduled visitation, and she called the police. The police weren't convinced Mr. Gonzales was in violation of the order. They say Ms. Gonzales called them later and said Simon was at Elitch's with the children. According to Ms. Gonazales, she asked them to go arrest Simon at Elitches. The police say she told them Simon would be bringing the children home. Instead, Simon went to the Castle Rock Police police department and started a shootout. Police killed Simon. They then found the three little girls dead inside the truck, having been shot, presumably by Simon, hours earlier. Not only did the Castle Rock police did not go to Denver to arrest him, they also didn't call the Denver Police Department ask the to go check on the situation. .

Her argument in a nutshell:

Gonzales' attorney, Brian Reichel, who will argue her case before the Supreme Court, says police didn't need to know about Simon's bizarre behavior. They just needed to follow the law. Colorado is one of 30 states that passed a law instructing the police to arrest people who violate restraining orders. "If there's a restraining order in place, a court order in place, telling them what to do, just do it," says Reichel. "They knew exactly where he was. We have their own logs that say that Jessica called and advised the police department that Simon had the children at Elitch Gardens amusement park -- at 8:30 that night, when they were still alive." But the cops had said that the amusement park was out of their jurisdiction. "Well, I'm assuming that Castle Rock police department have the phone number for the Denver police department," says Reichel. "A simple telephone call to the security officials at Elitch Gardens, to the Denver police department, this tragedy could have been avoided."

This raises the question, "In hindsight, should Castle Rock police have asked the Denver police to go to the amusement park?"

Castle Rock will tell the Supreme Court that if this type of lawsuit is allowed, it could bankrupt some cities, because law enforcement inevitably is less than perfect. But Gonzales says she's suing for $30 million to force police departments across the country to improve officers' training on how to enforce restraining orders.