I am grateful to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for hearing my petition. It is a courtesy I was not granted by the judicial system of my home country, the United States. I brought this petition because I want to prevent the kind of tragedy my little girls suffered from happening to other families.
In the summer of 1999, a court granted me a protective order that required my estranged husband, Simon Gonzales, to stay at least 100 yards away from me, my three young daughters and my home. The court order also required the police to enforce its terms by arresting my husband if he violated the order. A month later, my husband violated that order by kidnapping my three daughters from our yard. I immediately called the police and informed them of the order and asked them to find my daughters. The police took no action.
I contacted the police eight times over a ten-hour period – both by phone and in person. I was even able to find out that Simon had taken the girls to a local amusement park. Despite all of this information, the police still did nothing. Later that night, Simon drove up to the police station and opened fire with a gun he had purchased earlier that day. The police returned fire, spraying the truck with bullets. After Simon was killed, they searched his truck and found the bodies of my three little girls. They had been murdered earlier that evening.
I relied on the police to protect me and my children. Colorado issued a court order that clearly stated that my children and I would be protected from a man who was potentially violent. I believed that the police were duty bound to enforce the restraining order and that they would do their best to protect us. I learned from my tragedy that the police had no sense of accountability regarding state law. The safety of my children was of such little consequence that the police took no action to protect my babies. They didn’t even bother to note my descriptions of the vehicle that my children were in.
We rely on the courts and the police for protection against violence. A restraining order is a legal mechanism for protection against domestic violence. And the role of the police is to serve and protect. If the law’s claimed purpose to protect is not true, and if the police can ignore the law with impunity, we should know that. We should know that we are on our own when someone is out to murder our children.
I brought a lawsuit against the Castle Rock Police Department in the domestic U.S. judicial system and pursued it to the highest court in the land, the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court found that I had no right to expect the protective order to be enforced by the police and dismissed the case.
I brought this petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights because I have exhausted all avenues in the United States and still, there has been no justice for my poor daughters. Police must be required to enforce restraining orders or else these orders are meaningless. We need to hold the U.S. government accountable.
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