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Man Charged With Fare Evasion Faces Deportation After Officer Questions Immigration Status

A man who was questioned about his immigration status by a transit officer on a Minnesota train could be departed after he was arrested by the same officer.
A transit police officer asks Ariel Vences-Lopez about his immigration status in Minneapolis.
A transit police officer asks Ariel Vences-Lopez about his immigration status in Minneapolis.via Facebook

A train rider at the center of viral video who was questioned about his immigration status and arrested by a Minnesota transit officer for not paying his fare is now facing deportation — and the officer no longer has a job, officials said.

Earlier this month, Ariel Vences-Lopez, 23, was riding a metro train in Minneapolis when a transit officer approached him and asked several questions about his identification including, “Are you here illegally?”

The encounter was filmed on a cellphone by an onlooker who intervened immediately and asked the officer if he was “authorized to act as immigration police.”

The officer appears surprised by the question and responds with “not necessarily,” and seemed to back off in the video. But the matter did not end there.

Vences-Lopez was arrested by the officer on May 14 on charges of fare evasion, obstruction, and providing a fictitious name.

The officer also used a stun gun on the man after he “stood up and refused requests to sit,” according to an incident report.

While the Metro Police Department did not officially identify the officer, Officer Andy Lamers was listed as the primary arresting officer in the incident report.

One day after his arrest, immigration officials placed a detainer on Vences-Lopez, Shawn Neudauer, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a statement to NBC News. And on May 16, Vences-Lopez was “transferred to ICE custody for immigration violations,” he said.

“On May 23, 2017, a federal immigration judge issued Vences-Lopez a final order of removal. He will remain in ICE custody pending removal from the United States,” he said. Vences-Lopez is due to be deported to Mexico.

The Metro Transit Police Department said in a statement on Friday that “the officer seen in the video is no longer an employee of the Metro Transit Police Department.”

“The image of a single officer’s questioning immigration status is not reflective of, nor does it represent, the practices and procedures of Metro Transit officers,” Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington said in the statement.

Harrington said department policies make clear that its officers will not act as immigration officers.

Harrington said there were no references to immigration status in the police report, and the department did not notify ICE or any other agency about immigration-related concerns.

Harrington said the department learned on May 25 that Vences-Lopez was in ICE custody and scheduled for deportation.

The department also noted that they are now focusing on “ensuring that our officers fully understand and adhere to our policy regarding immigration status,” and are “working to reestablish the trust that was broken by this isolated incident.”

Metro Transit's parent organization, Metropolitan Council, was also outraged to hear about Vences-Lopez’s pending deportation.

“I was shocked and dismayed to learn that the rider was in ICE custody and scheduled for deportation,” said Adam Duininck, a chairman of the Metropolitan Council in a statement. “The objective of our police force is to be a community partner, and to protect the safety and security of all members of our community. I believe we had an officer make a serious mistake. We take responsibility for that action,” he said.

“It is troubling that something that started as a routine fare check resulted in a pending deportation,” Duininck said in the statement.