A Mission judge on Thursday found a local mother of two guilty of disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer in a municipal case that gained widespread attention after a video of the woman’s arrest was posted on YouTube.
Judge Keith Drill convicted Catrina Engle on both charges against her after four hours of proceedings during which Engle, her husband, two Mission Police officers and three postal employees testified about the series of events that led to Engle’s arrest outside the Mission Post Office March 16.
Postal employee Annette Grimes called the Mission police shortly after 5 p.m. that Saturday afternoon reporting that a woman in the outer lobby was yelling profanities and that there were rocks coming through the package drop. When Mission officer Michelle Pierce arrived on the scene, she found Engle, who met the description given by dispatch, standing outside a blue mini-van in the parking lot and approached her. Pierce asked Engle twice for her identification, and she refused, asking, “Why?”
When Engle refused the third time, Pierce informed her she would be placing her in handcuffs. As Pierce turned Engle around to detain her, fellow officer Tim Gift arrived on the scene and immediately got out of his car. Video from Gift’s dashboard camera shows him quickly approaching the van as the woman appears to make a slight movement with her right arm. Pierce then placed Engle in a “clamp” after which she and Gift force her to the ground.
“Ouch!” Engle says in the video. “I have my two daughters with me. You’re scaring them.”
“That’s not good for any of them,” Gift replies.
In court Thursday, Engle contended that she had been yelling at her husband — not postal employees — on the phone over the course of a half hour or so leading up to the arrival of the police. Her husband had asked her to mail several packages for his Internet delivery business earlier in the day, but by the time she arrived at the post office that afternoon, the main lobby was closed. Things were heated as the two discussed the situation on the phone.
“He was very frustrated,” Engle told the court. “He was very mad at me.” Moreover, Engle said, she was upset with her two children, who were “running wild” in the outer lobby area where Engle was attempting to use a self-service mail kiosk to get postage for the packages.
But Grimes and postal employee Yvette Jenkins both contended that the yelling had gone beyond just what Engle and her husband were saying to one another on the phone. Jenkins stated that after she informed Engle from behind a pair of locked glass doors in main lobby that she couldn’t assist her in sorting out a discrepancy on the receipt Engle had received from the mail kiosk, Engle began acting outlandishly. At one point, Jenkins told the court, Engle had apparently kicked a separate door from the outer lobby to the postal processing area and said, “You’re going to open this mother——— door right now.”
Engle conceded that she may have been yelling profanities, but stuck to her contention that they had been directed at her husband, not the postal employees. And she refuted the assertion that she had used the term “goddamn.”
“I never take the Lord’s name in vain,” she told the court. “It actually frustrates me when I hear that in movies.”
But Drill said he ultimately found the testimony of the postal employees — who “have no dog in this fight” — to be more credible than that of the Engles, leading him to uphold the disorderly conduct charge.
He also defended the officers’ decision to place her under arrest and handcuff her, noting that the information they had been given by dispatch suggested that someone was “throwing rocks” at the post office. Though after the course of the trial Drill said he believed it was most likely that Engle’s daughters, ages 2 and 4, had been the ones depositing rock in the package drop, the officers weren’t aware of that when they arrived on the scene.
“There is no doubt that these are serious calls [coming into the police department],” Drill said. “We live in an era and time where bad things can happen in public places. I’m loathe to second guess the decision making of officers in the field.”
Drill fined Engle $500 on the disorderly conduct charge and $1,000 on the interfering with an officer charge, granting probation and suspending the $1,000 fine provided that Engle — who has no prior criminal record — not break the law for a year. He also ordered a mental health evaluation “in lieu of a more serious penalty.”
“I’m worried about what you’ve got going on in your world that would make you respond to a situation the way you did,” he said.
Engle has two weeks to decide whether or not she will appeal the case.