Austin: Woman Surrounded by DPS, SWAT For Anti-Police Slogans on Car

Cover photo by Cassandra Clark

By Brian Martel

On July 27, Lauren Mestas was stopped on the First St. Bridge by state troopers (DPS). Authorities surrounded Mestas’ car for over an hour. Mestas had committed no crime but was targeted for the anti-police messages written on her car.

Only two days prior, Mestas was at a protest where she witnessed the murder of Garrett Foster. In her rush to escape from the shooting, she lost the remote to open the gates to her apartment complex and subsequently parked her car outside of her apartment’s gates. Upset by the shooting the night before, she was unable to find her car and believed it to be stolen.

The next day Mestas walked to work, still shaken. While at work, her manager called Austin’s non-emergency number to report Mestas’ vehicle stolen. Upon returning home Mestas found her car and retracted her report. She was assured her car was removed from the stolen vehicles list.

On Monday, a state trooper began to follow Mestas. In an incident report, the state trooper said that he ran her license plate because “the vehicle had anti law enforcement rhetoric” written on it. The officer tailed her for a mile on Riverside Dr. before turning on his siren.

In a panic, Mestas stopped in the middle of the road, immediately putting her hands up. “I had my hands up for about 2 hours,” Mestas told Tribune.

The two DPS officers on the scene immediately drew their weapons and began a “high-risk stop.” This is the same procedure used by the officers who killed Mike Ramos after he was the subject of a false 911 call.

“Nobody was approaching the actual vehicle,” Mestas said. Her rolled up windows and loud music, as well as past ear surgeries, made her unable to hear commands police were giving to exit the vehicle.

“I’m not gonna put my hands down or give them any reason to do anything,” Mestas said. “If I try to put my windows down, if I try to turn my volume down […] they’re gonna take that as violence.”

After an hour, nearly 100 officers were on the scene, along with dozens of vehicles including two armored personnel carriers, a helicopter, drones, and a bomb diffusing robot. SWAT arrived with military equipment and set up a sniper in a nearby building.

Eventually the two armored personnel carriers closed in on Mestas’ vehicle and sandwiched it in place while the robot broke a window. SWAT surrounded her car and instructed her to get out.

Mestas was interrogated by the Criminal Investigative Division, which specializes in investigating terrorism. The detective questioning her only asked about her politics and tried to debate against them, telling her “all lives matter.”

Mestas was released without charges, but wasn’t compensated for the damage to her car. DPS admitted that they never requested confirmation that her car was stolen. Despite the experience, Mestas has continued to attend protests.

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