Criminal charges have been dismissed against a Mexican man who was questioned by Metro Transit Police about his immigration status while riding the Blue Line LRT last month. The query, which was caught on cellphone video by another passenger, went viral on Facebook.
Ariel Vences-Lopez, 23, was charged with fare evasion, obstruction of process and providing a false name to police. On Friday, all of the charges were dismissed by the Minneapolis city attorney, according to his lawyer, Bruce Nestor of Minneapolis.
Vences-Lopez was riding the Blue Line on May 14 when Metro Transit police officers boarded the train to conduct a fare check and officer Andy Lamers asked him about his immigration status. After the fare check, Vences-Lopez was detained by police, who used a Taser on him three times, according to a police report.
After a fellow passenger’s video of the incident sparked a controversy, Metro Transit police said its officers are not “trained or empowered to act as federal immigration authorities.” Lamers, who was a part-time officer with the Metro Transit Police Department, voluntarily resigned after the incident. He still works as a full-time K-9 officer for the New Hope Police Department. Community activists recently asked the New Hope City Council to fire him.
Meantime, immigration officials ordered the deportation of Vences-Lopez, but a court recently reopened the case. He remains in the Sherburne County Jail pending a resolution.
Vences-Lopez entered the United States illegally in 2013 and worked for a roofing company. He told his attorneys that he was robbed of $2,000 at knife point in early May, so he couldn’t afford the light-rail fare. He did not report the crime to police until recently.
As a victim of a crime, Vences-Lopez might qualify for a “U visa,” a category reserved for crime victims who cooperate with law enforcement, his attorneys say.