Marcela de Jesus Guzman Estrada was on her way to the grocery store when a Phoenix police vehicle abruptly pulled out onto the road, causing her to swerve into the next lane. It was Sunday, August 26, 2018, and Guzman had just left church. She saw the officer was on his cellphone, but by the day’s end, that transgression would be inconsequential compared to everything else the officer allegedly did to Guzman.
On Tuesday, Guzman filed a federal lawsuit in Arizona’s District Court against the city of Phoenix and four Phoenix police officers, alleging that officer Marcos Rodriguez stalked her, showed up at her house uninvited, made unwanted sexual advances, and pointed a gun at her head. Guzman says she since has moved out of her apartment so Rodriguez cannot find her, losing many of her belongings in the process, and lost clients in her housecleaning business because she can’t concentrate and has panic attacks. She is suing the city for violating her civil rights, intentionally inflicting emotional distress, invasion of privacy, false imprisonment, and aiding and abetting.
The Phoenix Police Department did not immediately respond to the allegations made in Guzman’s lawsuit, though the department typically does not comment on pending litigation. A spokesperson said the department would get back to Phoenix New Times regarding Rodriguez’s employment status and the outcome of an investigation involving Rodriguez and Guzman.
Guzman’s attorney, David Dow, also did not respond to a phone call and an email seeking comment, nor did the city of Phoenix’s attorney, Sally Odegard, or Rodriguez’s attorney, John Masterson.
Guzman said that after the police vehicle cut her off and she got back into her lane, the officer pulled up next to her, rolled down the window, and signaled to her to roll down the window as well. He apologized to her; she said it was fine and tried to leave, but he motioned for her to pull over. So she did.
That’s when Rodriguez walked over to Guzman’s car and asked her to get coffee with him, the lawsuit states. Nervous and confused, Guzman looked back toward Rodriguez’s parked vehicle and noticed a female officer sitting in the front. Guzman asked if Rodriguez’s partner would be joining them.
According to the lawsuit, Rodriguez said they had been called on an emergency and his partner would not be coming. So Guzman declined, telling Rodriguez he ought to make the emergency call a priority. Rodriguez insisted they go get coffee without his fellow officer, allegedly stating that his partner “knows how I am.”
Guzman declined again, and at Rodriguez’s insistence, she gave him her business card. He walked back to his patrol vehicle, and Guzman thought that would be the end of it — until he started texting her.
Around 1 p.m. on August 26, Rodriguez asked Guzman if they could talk. Then he told her he was right outside her door. But Guzman never gave him her home address.
Guzman opened the front door but left the security screen closed. She asked Rodriguez what he was doing at her home, in uniform and holding the computer from his patrol vehicle.
She let Rodriguez in her house, believing he was there to make a report after almost hitting her car earlier in the day. Rodriguez set his computer on her dining room table and began telling Guzman that they ought to be friends, and that she needed a friend like him because he is a police officer and she lives alone.
Guzman alleges that Rodriguez began making unwanted sexual advances and asked if he could kiss her. She told him no, noticed his wedding band, and told him it is against her values to have sexual contact with a married man. She says Rodriguez then showed her a picture of his wife, said “she is boring, that his marriage is dead, and there’s no passion.”
He said he is a passionate man, and allegedly grabbed his genitals through his uniform and asked Guzman, “Don’t you want some of this?” Then, he allegedly moved his pelvis toward her and hovered over her as she was seated at the dining room table.
Rodriguez, who had braces, allegedly kept licking his mouth and told Guzman he “could teach her how to kiss, as he has passion.” Frightened, Guzman told him she had to go to the movies with a friend and that he needed to leave.
Guzman says that while at her apartment, Rodriguez asked her if she had ever had anal sex. He said he liked anal sex and “could show her how it’s done, as he’s the police and can do what he wants to her,” the lawsuit states.
When Guzman at one point pushed on Rodriguez’s chest to get him away from her, she says she hurt her fingers on the vest, and asked what it was that hurt her. He asked her if she wanted to see, then started to unzip his vest. Then, he pulled out a gun.
He said “if a delinquent on the street were to disarm them, he could grab them,” the lawsuit states, then demonstrated on Guzman by putting his arm around her neck and pointing the gun in her face. She said she was scared of guns and asked him once again to leave her apartment, which he did.
Rodriguez kept texting her, though Guzman’s only response was to tell him he should appreciate his career and his family, according to the lawsuit. He told her he went by her apartment again, but didn’t see her, and said that he regularly patrols the area.
“Rodriguez made comments in a dirty, sexual way and disclosed details to Ms. Guzman about his life and childhood: how his mother left his family and him and his brother were left with a father who was an officer in Puerto Rico but drank excessively and abused his power,” the lawsuit states.
Guzman says that she has since become anxious and scared for her safety, which is why she moved from her apartment.
The lawsuit references an investigation, though it’s unclear whether it was a criminal investigation or an internal affairs investigation. Guzman alleges she is “aware of various tape recordings including ones by defendant [Carmina] Theriault where a confrontation call was attempted.”
Confrontation calls, or controlled phone calls, are a staple of sex crimes investigations, but are not typically a part of internal affairs investigations. It would be unusual for a confrontation call to be a part of an internal affairs investigation.
Guzman says police officers Chad Hunnicutt and Brandon Warner spoke with her on the phone and asked her to come down to the office. She went there the next day, and the officers “acted as if they were going to help, took her information, but they never provided her any legal help,” the lawsuit states.
“After appearing to want to assist, defendant Theriault became rude, stating that Ms. Guzman watched too many action movies. Theriault began to scream at Ms. Guzman in a strong and demanding tone, accusing her of just wanting money from the police department,” Guzman’s attorney David Dow wrote in the suit.
Besides moving out of her home and losing clients from her housekeeping business, Guzman has since begun to see a psychiatrist after experiencing depression, anxiety, insomnia, and nightmares. She says she has also had to quit her volunteer work at a support group for abused women.