Miami, FL — Kristy Hernandez, like any good parent, only wanted to take her son to school in a timely manner, but an average trip to Ben Sheppard Elementary School quickly turned into a nightmare — thanks to, of all people, a hero cop.
Hernandez’ son, Brandon, has autism — his myriad struggles with the developmental disorder forced the young mother to leave her job as a nurse in order to care for him — and after dropping her other son at school, she would ordinarily do just that.
Officer Ismael Castilla, however, didn’t have any parents’ everyday lives in mind when he pulled over a parent outside the school — blocking the exit and preventing anyone from leaving for over 20 minutes — no matter what obligations would have been waiting for them.
Hernandez told 7News Miami the officer was “Blocking the exit, not allowing anyone to get out.”
Irate at the delay preventing her from attending to Brandon, Hernandez pulled out her cell phone to record the cop when parents were finally able to begin exiting again — and she had no intention of holding back her anger when driving by.
That brief interaction, born of justifiable frustration toward the inconsiderate ticketing of another parent (considering the officer could have performed the stop and ticketed the driver on the road outside, preventing the ensuing traffic tangle) was captured by a small dash cam mounted in her vehicle:
“The students are late to school because of you,” Hernandez hollered out her window. “I’m going to be sending this to your supervisor, by the way, sir.”
Apparently, that his problematic vehicle stop could soon also be a disciplinary problem at his job, was more than Castilla could handle. Hernandez shortly heard police sirens and saw the authoritarian officer flip on his lights — she was being stopped in the same school driveway.
But she had no idea the extent of Castilla’s vengeful and unnecessary wrath.
Hernandez tells the Free Thought Project via Facebook that “this cop everyday blocks school traffic to give tickets. So I, along with other parents, decided to record it. He noticed me recording and as soon as I turned the corner he turned with his lights still on, so at first I didn’t know he was stopping me.”
But that is exactly what happened.
“What are you stopping me for? You’re blocking traffic,” Hernandez implored.
“I’m pulling you over because you have an obstruction of your license plate,” the officer replied.
With her car at the mechanic’s shop, Hernandez had driven her father’s car to drop Brandon off at school — but the officer claimed he would be citing her because the “MyFlorida.com” portion at the top of the tag wasn’t visible.
Aware of the cop’s unveiled hostility, Hernandez focused the small dashboard-mounted camera on her interaction with Castilla; and what happened next to the mother who had never had troubles with the law would make any reasonable person’s blood boil.
“I’ve never been on the wrong side of the law,” the mother explained, “so it’s scary for me.”
Castilla brought the full weight of nit-picky, superfluous law against the already upset mother — issuing an inordinate number of citations for the brief traffic stop — itself birthed of the arrogant cop’s refusal to take responsibility for actions he could have performed differently.
“And so he had those five citations to give me,” she told 7News.
“Five?” reporter Patrick Fraser repeated incredulously.
In addition to not displaying her state’s website plug on her father’s vehicle’s license plates, Hernandez received tickets for failing to show Castilla registration and proof of insurance — both of which she says were in the car — as well as for the dash cam.
“It’s a small dash-cam,” Hernandez lamented. “He said it was obstructing my view.”
Far worse than a pile of minor, if costly, citations, Castilla’s last order of business with mother — who only wanted to drop off her kid at school and go home — could make Hernandez a felon.
“He said I fled and eluded the police officer.”
As 7News explains, “When Kristy pulled over on school property, the officer’s car was left in the road, so she pulled up a few feet to give him space to park, and that’s what got her charged with a felony for fleeing and eluding.
“By then, Brandon was crying, Kristy was hysterical, and another school police officer showed up.”
Through tears, Hernandez attempted to negotiate with the second officer on the scene — to no avail.
She now has four tickets and — defying common decency, reason, and rationale — has been charged with a felony.
Legal expert Howard Finkelstein told 7News Castilla’s gratuitous stop constitutes an extreme departure from the ethical — and isn’t even legal. Not holding back, the expert asserted,
“This is an abuse of power. Legally, Kristy can say she does not like the way the officer is doing his job, but he cannot retaliate and charge her with a felony. And by the way, he wrote the felony charge incorrectly, and it’s not valid at all. As for the other four citations, a judge will see what happened here and throw them all out.”
Finkelstein isn’t the only one calling Castilla out for ruthless and vindictive abuse of power.
Award-winning North Miami Beach Officer Ericson Harrell — who made headlines after refusing to remove an Anonymous’ Guy Fawkes mask during a protest several years ago — was appalled at Castilla’s infractions, and after viewing the news report, took to social media to express those grievances.
On Facebook, Harrell wrote,
“I just watched a news report of a ‘hero’ School Board cop stopped a lady because she yelled at him because the COP was creating a traffic jam. He then pulled her over because he couldn’t see the ‘Florida’ label at the top of her tag. He then proceeded to write the hard working mom 4 tickets to include one for ‘Fleeing and Eluding’ (felony)!!! People don’t hate cops or think ACAB for no reason. It’s actions of this officer which turns someone from a bootlicker to a cop hater over night.
“‘Whenever a discretionary power is lodged in any set of man / woman over the property (Rights) of their neighbors, they will abuse it.’”
With tensions between law enforcement and civilians at an arguably all-time high, Harrell’s explanation indeed explains common sentiment — law-abiding individuals who would frequently rush to side with the Boys In Blue will change their tune the moment a feckless cop uses his gun and badge as personal weapons.
Castilla, as many commenters to Harrell’s post pointed out, indisputably knew his malicious and retaliatory actions would not hold up in court, but he issued the citations and attempted to create a felon out of Hernandez just to be cruel — if not to warn her against their having future interactions.
If he’ll go off the rails toward her once, any additional encounters between Hernandez and the vengeful Castilla could only be worse.
“I felt violated. I felt victimized,” Hernandez told 7News. “It’s clear to see that he did it in retaliation.”
Worse, she told the station the school’s principal chillingly informed her he wasn’t pleased she spoke to 7News about the school cop’s role in the incident — so she now fears retaliation from two fronts.
In the end, the young mother who had done nothing violent, dangerous, or infringing to another person’s rights — and had never had legal issues — has come to the same conclusion countless otherwise innocent targets of police figured out following similar or worse interactions with law enforcement.
Police like Castilla aren’t doing their jobs, as Hernandez notes, instead,
“What you’re doing is really not protecting and serving. You are just protecting and serving yourself because someone caught you doing something wrong.”