A Sunday afternoon stroll in Laguna Beach was life-changing for a Paramount woman, who returned to Mexico Tuesday after she was arrested on a battery charge in Heisler Park. The woman had no identification, and allegedly told police officers that she was from Mexico and not in the U.S. legally.
Police video captured the incident — showing the couple grappling with each other and the woman striking the man — and has been shown on TV news stations, raising the profile of the incident. Charges were never filed in the battery case.
The woman told police she had lived in the U.S. since she was a toddler. The woman’s father, who was walking with her and other family members, did not stop when his daughter was apprehended by police, said Sgt. George Ramos, who was present at the incident.
Aracely Lopez, 19, was walking with her 24-year-old live-in boyfriend on Cliff Drive overlooking Diver’s Cove at 2 p.m. when the couple began quarreling about whether to walk on the beach below, Laguna Beach Sgt. Jason Kravetz said.
Lopez, who told police she did not want to walk on the beach, allegedly began to strike her boyfriend with her purse, then the struggle escalated and she hit him with her hands and fists, police said.
A Laguna Beach police officer happened to be patrolling in the area, and, observing the altercation, hit the “record” button on his vehicle-mounted video recorder.
The video recorder captures a one-minute interval prior to when the video record button is pushed, Kravetz said.
Lopez was arrested on suspicion of battery and jailed in Laguna Beach on $10,000 bail. She spent Sunday night in jail. Officers reported her illegal status to the local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, which placed a hold on her pending an investigation.
The citizenship question is standard when arrestees are booked, Kravetz said.
“We don’t line people up on the street in Laguna Beach and ask if they’re illegal,” he added.
The next day, Lopez was to be taken to court when she complained of shortness of breath, and was taken to South Coast Medical Center in Laguna Beach, where she was treated and released back into the custody of police.
The Orange County District Attorney declined to prosecute the case, because there were no injuries to her boyfriend and no previous history of domestic violence, Kravetz said. In addition, the boyfriend had refused to press charges.
After the district attorney released her, she was taken to the ICE detention center in Santa Ana.
Lopez was offered the option of voluntarily returning to Mexico, which she agreed to do, Virginia Kice, ICE spokeswoman, said Sept. 11.
“She waived her right to a hearing and avoided a formal deportation,” Kice said. “She returned to Mexico today.”
Non-citizens without criminal histories or previous immigration violations are eligible for voluntary relocation, Kice said. Lopez retains the right to return to the U.S. legally in the future.