Former police officer arrested in park for throwing ball with daughter due to coronavirus social distancing rules

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(ABC News) – In an incident caught on video, a former Colorado State Patrol trooper said he was handcuffed in front of his 6-year old daughter on a near-empty softball field Sunday by Brighton police officers enforcing social distancing rules. The department apologized Tuesday afternoon, calling the incident an “overreach by our police officers.”

Matt Mooney, 33, told ABC News he walked with his wife and daughter from their home to a nearby park Sunday to play softball.

“We’re just having a good time, not near anybody else. The next closest person is at least 15 feet away from me and my daughter at this point,” Mooney told ABC News.

Police arrived soon after, Mooney said, telling him and others in the area to leave because the park was closed.

Mooney said he told officers that he was familiar with the posted rules and believed he and his family were in compliance and practicing proper social distancing. He said he refused to provide his identification when officers asked for it because he had not broken any law.

“Well, they didn’t like that idea. They then proceeded to make a threat against me saying, ‘If you don’t give us your identification, if you don’t identify yourself, we’re going to put you in handcuffs in front of your 6-year-old daughter.'”

ABC NewsMatt Mooney, 33, says he was handcuffed in front of his 6-year-old daughter for allegedly not respecting social distancing rules at a Brighton, Colo., park. Police later apologized for the incident.Matt Mooney, 33, says he was handcuffed in front of his 6-year-old daughter for allegedly not respecting social distancing rules at a Brighton, Colo., park. Police later apologized for the incident.ABC News

Mooney said officers handcuffed him and placed him in a patrol car for about 10 to 15 minutes while they phoned a supervisor for guidance. The incident was captured on cellphone footage by former Brighton City Councilman Kirby Wallin.

“Yeah, it’s Sunday and the Brighton police are apparently arresting a dad for throwing a ball to his daughter,” Wallin is heard saying on the video.

In a statement, the Brighton Police Department said it was “deeply sorry” for the incident and is conducting an internal investigation.

“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 said. “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.”

Mooney, who said he’s hired an attorney and is considering legal action against the city, declined to comment on the apology.

The former state patrol trooper, who now runs a construction company, said officers eventually let him go without issuing a citation.

Courtesy Kirby WallinMatt Mooney, 33, says he was handcuffed in front of his 6-year-old daughter for allegedly not respecting social distancing rules at a Brighton, Colo., park. Police later apologized for the incident.Matt Mooney, 33, says he was handcuffed in front of his 6-year-old daughter for allegedly not respecting social distancing rules at a Brighton, Colo., park. Police later apologized for the incident.Courtesy Kirby Wallin

Mooney said his 6-year-old daughter was scared to see her father placed in handcuffs, but said she learned a valuable lesson.

“She’s learned that our constitutional rights are something worth standing up for,” Mooney said. “She got to witness a violation of civil rights. She got to witness an unlawful order by the police.”

In addition, Mooney said none of the officers were wearing protective gear, although he saw a face mask hanging from an officer’s belt.

“They could very simply be asymptomatic, not even know they’re sick, and now I’ve been exposed. My daughter’s been exposed; my wife’s been exposed,” said Mooney.

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