LANGLEY PARK – The woman who alleges that she was sexually assaulted by a former Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD) officer told a local immigration advocacy organization that the attack was premeditated because of her immigration status.
CASA de Maryland, based in Langley Park, has spoken with the alleged victim and are providing legal and mental health services after she claimed six-year veteran officer Ryan Macklin attacked her on Oct. 11.
George Escobar, Chief of Programs and Services, said that the woman felt Macklin’s behavior changed after seeing her non-compliant driver’s license after pulling her over at around 1 a.m.
The Maryland Department of Transportation provides the license to “immigrants who do not have valid U.S. Citizenship and Immigration documentation” after filing state income taxes for two years.
“After he reviewed this (license), he clearly knew who she was, and that is when, she said, everything changed,” Escobar said. “That is when he changed his demeanor and entered the vehicle, and that is when the incident began.”
The situation occurred in a parking lot on University Boulevard in Langley Park. According to the police report, the accuser told police that during the traffic stop, Macklin ordered her to drive behind a nearby store. Once she parked, Macklin attempted to touch her breasts and forced her to perform oral sex.
However, the accuser’s friend showed up to the scene, causing Macklin to leave, according to authorities. Investigators say that Macklin was on-duty, in uniform and driving a marked police car during the incident. Macklin was assigned to work in District 3 in Palmer Park, officials said.
“It unconscionable to fathom that someone is paying a salary, issuing a gun and a uniform on taxpayers’ dollars to someone who is hunting down members of our community,” Escobar said. “That is the picture of the ugliest and the darkest side of the police department that you can ever paint.”
Macklin was arrested on Oct. 15 on multiple charges of rape, perverted practice and assault. He was originally suspended but Chief of Police Henry P. Stawinski said that after he was arrested, Macklin was stripped of his police powers and his badge, gun and car were taken away upon his arrest.
In a court hearing on Oct. 17, Macklin pled not-guilty but will remain jail without bond until his bail review hearing on Oct. 26.
Escobar says that since the attack, the woman fears for her safety and does not want to talk publicly about it. However, since her friends and family advised her to talk to CASA and PGPD about the assault, she hopes that she is able to get justice for others who are under the same predicament.
“This is a very traumatic point in her life right now,” Escobar said. “Fundamentally, her number one priority is making sure this man is brought to justice and willing to do anything and cooperate with the state’s attorney’s office and the authorities to make sure this man is brought to justice.”
In an evening press conference on Oct. 15, Stawinski confirmed media reports that the accuser was undocumented but said that based on their investigation, it was not the key reason why the attack occurred. Spokesperson Jennifer Donelan said that since the leaked information on the accuser’s status was confirmed, some in the public have “lost focus.”
“She is the victim of a crime, but we still have no evidence that her immigration status had anything to do with the crime itself,” Donelan said. “She is more than her immigration status; she is a survivor, and we are diligently working on our case against the officer responsible for this crime.”
Stawinski said the area’s Latino community, 18.5 percent of the county’s total population according to the U.S. Census, would be most “disproportionally impacted” the most by the incident.
However, the police chief stressed that there may be more victims and urges all county residents to contact investigators if they have more information.
“I am hoping that you can extend the trust that I have extended to you and listen to what I have to say and by making this information public, raises your level of confidence in this institution,” Stawinski said. “… To be perfectly clear, we have no information that this victim was targeted for her immigration status.”
Despite the department’s assurances, Escobar expresses concern for not just undocumented immigrants but also individual citizens from day-to-day officers who are “bad apples on their force.” Under the new political climate and tougher immigration policies by the federal government, people have been entering CASA offices worried that officers would go rogue and call immigration officials due to their status, Escobar said.
In order to absolve those fears, CASA is currently working with state lawmakers to pass the Maryland Trust Act, which would prevent police from asking for one’s immigration status and bar police departments from holding undocumented people past their release date to comply with a federal request.
“Until we have these kinds of protections codified in law and created through the legislature, we are not going to feel confident that our streets are being patrolled by the best and brightest of the county,” said Escobar.