JeffCo sheriff’s deputies hold teens at gunpoint, mistaking them for suspect

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. -- A walk in the park suddenly became a nightmare last month for Jerresea Howard and his best friend Layna Delao-Gonzalez. The two were walking home from band camp when Jefferson County Sheriff's deputies ordered them to the ground at gunpoint.

Howard was handcuffed, but the two teens had absolutely no idea why.

"My body was numb. I was shaking. My heart was beating fast and my mind went blank and I only heard the officers," said Delao-Gonzalez.

"I was like, 'Why are you guys here? We're high schoolers,'" added Howard.

The deputies asked the teens their names and ages, believing Howard was possibly armed with a handgun.

It all stemmed from a phone call from the father of another teen girl, who claimed a teen boy by another name had assaulted his daughter in the southwest corner of the Crown Hill Park, near Kipling Street and West 26th Avenue.

That teen was wanted on outstanding warrants, including two warrants for assault. The father claimed the boy was wearing baggy clothes and had red hair. Howard matched that description, and deputies found him in the same corner of the park as described with a teenage girl.

"Unfortunately, it's ironic there was a couple on the southwest side of the park and they matched the same physical description," said Mike Taplin, a spokesperson with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.

Because deputies believed the teen was armed, Taplin says they didn't hesitate.

"With the back story and what deputies knew at the time, they did what was required of them," Taplin added.

The teens were eventually released and a deputy apologized.

An internal review of the incident determined deputies followed proper protocol. However, Howard and Delao-Gonzalez say they now have trouble sleeping and fear law enforcement.

"There's always police around and I'm scared they're going to pull up and do the same thing they did. I don't want to have a gun in my face again," said Delao-Gonzalez.

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