(KMSP) - Under intense pressure, a part-time Metro Transit Police officer quietly resigned after he was caught on video asking a light rail rider about his immigration status. But his resignation did not come cheap; it cost taxpayers $50,000.
A settlement agreement between Metro Transit and Officer Andy Lamers, obtained by the Fox 9 Investigators under a public records request, shows the officer was allowed to resign May 27, and in exchange, was paid $50,000. After tax withholdings it was lump sum payment of $33,650. It still far exceeded his 2016 part-time pay of $26,457.
“Our administration wanted to send a real strong message that our officers are not immigration agents," said Metro Transit Police spokesperson Howie Padilla.
Asked how a $50,000 settlement signed in July and not publicly revealed until now could send a message, Padilla responded, “It’s not the dollar amount. It’s the separation. We were able to go on and do our work as the Metro Transit Police Department and he was able to go on with his work as an officer with a different agency.”
Lamers is still a full-time police officer in New Hope. He did not return a call for comment.
The incident on May 14, captured by a fellow passenger on the light rail Blue Line, showed Ofc. Lamers asking a passenger, Ariel Vences-Lopez, 23, for his identification and asking whether he was in the country illegally. The passenger recording the conversation is heard telling Lamers he shouldn’t be asking about a passenger’s immigration status.
According to police reports, Lamers and another officer were conducting a fare inspection on the Blue Line, and when Vences-Lopez said, “I don’t have one.” Ofc. Lamers asked if he had identification and he replied, “no.”
Lamers then gave Vences-Lopez a pen and pad of paper and asked him to print his name and date of birth. Vences-Lopez allegedly gave a false name and a date of birth that did not match his age. He seemed nervous and tense, and Lamers believed he was giving false information to avoid detection, according to the police reports.
When the train reached the 38th Avenue Sation, Vences-Lopez was asked to step off the train. When officers attempted to handcuff Vences-Lopez, the officers claim he began resisting arrest. Officers used a taser, but say Vences-Lopez continued to resist.
Lopez was arrested and subsequently released to U.S. Immigration. Charges of fare evasion, obstruction with force and fictitious name were dropped.
Metro Transit conducted an internal affairs investigation, and also paid for two outside investigations. The three investigations are not public because, Padilla said, there was no discipline. Under Minnesota Data Practices Act, internal investigations are only public if there is sustained discipline.
Multiple sources tell the Fox 9 Investigators the investigations showed Wilmer did not violate department policy at the time by asking the passenger’s immigration status.
That policy has since changed, and corresponds with the policy of the St. Paul and Minneapolis Police Departments, that officers are not allowed to ask a suspect about their immigration status.