Mexican family of man left by cops at Taco Bell settles suit

DELAWARE, Ohio — The family of a drunken man dropped off at a Taco Bell by Ohio sheriff's deputies and later fatally struck by a vehicle settled a lawsuit alleging authorities endangered him while joking about his Mexican heritage.

The $300,000 settlement with Delaware County will go to the family of Uriel Juarez-Popoca, including his widow and two children who live near Mexico City, according to the Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/2f0HVTE ).

Sheriff's deputies Derek Beggs and Christopher Hughes, who have since left the agency, found the 22-year-old man disoriented near Interstate 71 in July 2012. Juarez-Popoca spoke little English.

The officers took him to a Taco Bell instead of arresting him, with one officer joking: "They gotta (sic) have someone in there who can interpret."

Juarez-Popoca was later booted from the restaurant. Within the hour, Juarez-Popoca was struck while walking along Route 36.

Attorney Jennifer Branch said the force of the impact knocked Juarez-Popoca out of his shoes. Branch said he died almost instantly.

Branch represented Juarez-Popoca's estate during the civil trial. She said his family never expected officers would endanger his life "by making a joke out of his Mexican heritage."

Hearing Branch detail the series of events that led to her client's death, Sheriff Russ Martin said, "Those words cut deep and really hurt."

Both officers were fired and later allowed to resign with no admission of guilt. Martin said the officers did not follow standing policies.

Neither Hughes nor Beggs has commented on the settlement.

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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com

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