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Dad handcuffed and led away by cops in front of 6-year-old daughter for violating social distancing. They were playing tee ball at a park.


'Daddy, I don't want you to get arrested'

Paige Connelly/Raleigh News & Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Matt Mooney told KDVR-TV he was playing tee ball with his 6-year-old daughter and his wife at Donelson Park in Brighton, Colorado, on Sunday afternoon when three police officers showed up to inform him that he was violating social distancing guidelines put in place to slow the coronavirus spread.

The 33-year-old added to the station that he refused to provide his identification to the officers because he was certain he wasn't breaking any laws.

'Daddy, I don't want you to get arrested'

His daughter, however, wasn't so sure.

"She's like, 'Daddy, I don't want you to get arrested,'" Mooney recalled to KDVR. "At this point I'm thinking, 'There's no way they're going to arrest me, this is insane.' I'm telling her, 'Don't worry, Daddy's not going to get arrested. I've done nothing wrong. Don't worry about it,' and then they arrest me."

Image source: KDVR-TV video screenshot

He told the station the officers handcuffed him right there in front of his daughter.

Former Brighton City Councilman Kirby Wallin recorded a good chunk of the incident on his cellphone during which he narrates the action, saying at one point, "He's being taken by the Brighton police for playing softball with his daughter in an empty park," KDVR reported.

Image source: KDVR-TV video screenshot

What happened next?

Mooney told the station he spent about 10 minutes in the back of a patrol car before he was released. He also observed that the cops weren't exactly practicing what they were preaching.

"During the contact, none of the officers had masks on, none of them had gloves on, and they're in my face handcuffing me, they're touching me," Mooney added to KDVR.

Wallin was dumbfounded by the scene, later telling the station, "I find it hard to believe with all the things going on in our communities, the only way to resolve a situation like this was to handcuff a father in front of his daughter."

Image source: KDVR-TV video screenshot

A sign at Donelson Park reads "Closed" but in smaller print adds that "in groups of no more than 4 persons, parks remain open for walking, hiking, biking, running and similar activities," KDVR said.

Image source: KDVR-TV video screenshot

Bottom line: Mooney told the station he deserves an apology.

What did the police have to say?

Acting Brighton City Manager Marv Falconburg called Mooney on Tuesday in an attempt to arrange a meeting with Cmdr. Frank Acosta to offer an apology on behalf of the police department, KDVR noted in a follow-up story.

"Falconburg conveyed an apology, however Mr. Mooney has declined the offer for an in-person meeting," police told the station in an email.

Police said officers were dispatched to the park about 4:30 p.m. Sunday because a citizen was concerned about a "large group of people," KDVR said, adding that when officers arrived, a group of about 12 to 15 people appeared to be playing softball.

"Although the officers asked them to disperse due to the park being closed, which was incorrect, disbursement was needed due to the state's public health order regarding group gathering. The Brighton Police Department is currently conducting an internal investigation into what led to officers detaining Mr. Mooney while responding to the complaint," the department added to the station. "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."

Brighton police told KDVR that officers have to interpret several changing state public health orders and local closures, and there may have been a misunderstanding about the park closure.

"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," the department noted to the station. "This is an opportunity for us to come together and do better for the community. We are deeply sorry for the events that took place on Sunday and the impact on Mr. Mooney, his family, and the community."

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