BRIGHTON, CO-A former Brighton Colorado was handcuffed by police for violating social distancing rules after he was caught by police here playing catch with his young daughter. Matt Mooney, a Brighton resident was handcuffed by police and arrested in front of his daughter.
“On Sunday, April 5th, 2020 at approximately 4:00 pm my wife, 6-year-old daughter, and myself went to an open space located in our neighborhood in Brighton, Colorado. We were simply playing around with a softball and enjoying the weather a bit. This was in compliance with the press release put out by the city prior to that stated all playgrounds, facilities, and equipment were off-limits to limit the spread of COVID-19. It also states that walkways, trails, and open spaces were acceptable. The state and city have been encouraging people to go to local parks to exercise and be outside so long as you practice social distancing and limit the group to 4 or less people,” Mooney said.
Thirty minutes later Bright police offices Hughes, Rogers, and Zarate showed up and told Mooney and his family to leave the park. Mooney, who is a former elected official claimed the park was closed, but the open space behind the park and playground is classified as open space.
“I told the officers that I was not going to leave and they could write me a citation if they had to,” Mooney said. “I knew I was well within my rights and was going to just fight this in the legal system. Two of the officers spent the next 20 minutes on a cell phone while the third officer made everyone else leave the park.”
After clearing the park, the police returned to Mooney and his family.
“After everyone else had left they came back to my family and demanded my information. Since I had not committed any crime I am not obligated to provide them with any information and can refuse to speak with them,” he said. “They then threatened that if I didn’t provide them with information so they could write me a $500 citation then they would put me in handcuffs and take me to be booked and processed in front of my 6-year-old daughter. I informed them then go ahead because I wasn’t giving up my rights.”
Mooney said he was placed in handcuffs in front of his and hauled off to the patrol car.
“During this time none of the officers were wearing any personal protective equipment and easily could have exposed me to COVID-19,” he said. “I was placed in the back of the patrol car and left sitting there for over 10 minutes why two officers were joking and laughing and the 3rd was still on his cell phone. After this, I was taken out of the car and released with the excuse that these are trying times and everyone is still trying to figure this out. I never got an apology or anything.”
The sad part about the story is Mooney is correct.
Here is the warning Brighton Police and city officials posted to the public regarding park closures.
“To ensure the safety of our community and staff, all playgrounds, tennis courts, basketball courts, and picnic areas in the City of Brighton will be closed as of today, March 26. These closures fall in-line with the Tri-County Health Department Public Health Order issued on Wednesday that orders all park amenities, including but not limited to: playgrounds, skate parks, basketball courts, tennis courts, picnic areas, public restrooms, and similar spaces conducive to public gathering are currently closed due to the risk of spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus),” the statement read. “Residents may still enjoy walking paths, trails, and open spaces in the city, as long as they practice social distancing of at least six feet from others and group sizes are limited to no more than four people at a time.”
This happened Monday. Today, the Mayor of the town of Brighton and the police department apologized to Mooney.
“Today, Acting City Manager Marv Falconburg reached out to Brighton resident Matt Mooney by telephone in an effort to arrange a meeting in person with Falconburg and Brighton Police Commander Frank Acosta to offer an apology by Brighton Police Department in person. Falconburg conveyed an apology, however, Mr. Mooney has declined the offer for an in person meeting,” the town said in a statement. “On Sunday, at about 4:30 p.m., officers were dispatched to respond to a complaint from a concerned citizen about a large group of people gathering at Donelson Park. Upon arrival, officers encountered a group of about 12-15 people who appeared to be playing softball. Although the officers asked them to disperse due to the park being closed, which was incorrect, disbursement was needed due to the state’s public health order regarding group gathering.”
“The Brighton Police Department is currently conducting an internal investigation into what led to officers detaining Mr. Mooney while responding to the complaint. While the investigation sorts through the different versions of what took place by witnesses who were at the park, it is evident there was an overreach by our police officers,” the statement continued. “As officers are required to interpret several layers of state public health orders and local closures as they change, there may have been a misunderstanding about the park closure. It is imperative that we improve communication with our front line first responders so they are up to date on the latest rules in place regarding COVID-19 for addressing public safety. This is an opportunity for us to come together and do better for the community. We are deeply sorry for the events that took place on Sunday and the impact on Mr. Mooney, his family, and the community. ”