MODESTO -- Guns drawn, handcuffed with two small kids watching -- a father said he was pulled over by Modesto police officers in a case of mistaken identity.
William Sarmento said he didn’t think too much of it when he was initially pulled over, but when he saw the guns and multiple police officers he was scared for his family.
However, the department said the officers were following protocol as they were searching for a violent suspect.
In the cell phone video that the family shared with FOX40, Sarmento is handcuffed while guns are pointed directly at him. His wife and two small children are powerless as they watch from the car. He pulled over on Plaza Parkway in Modesto on Wednesday afternoon. He said he was confused as to why he was in trouble.
"I was scared for my family and my kids because they were still in the car with the guns and drawn on them,” Sarmento said.
The father said he pleaded with officers, told them his kids were in the car, and that he did nothing wrong. All he could do was watch as armed officers surrounded his family, guns drawn. He said his daughter and son are still rattled.
"He’s 7 years old, you know, with six, seven officers pointing machine guns and everything at em. I mean it was terrifying,” Sarmento recalled.
But the Modesto Police Department said officers were just following protocol as they were looking for a violent suspect.
“If we believe that this person was involved in a shooting, it’s called what we call a felony traffic stop,” Heather Graves, a spokeswoman with the Modesto Police Department told FOX40.
Turns out, officers were looking for 24-year-old Thomas Garcia III. He’s accused of assaulting a teen girl, threatening her family with a gun and violating probation. Investigators said the suspect got away in a car similar to Sarmento’s black Chevy, and that the car was the only one that matched the description at the time.
“Because at that time we felt the person may have been armed and potentially dangerous,” Graves said.
But for Sarmento, that explanation isn’t enough. He said his car’s license plate did not match the suspect’s. His family can’t shake off what happened and are still waiting for an apology.
"No they never apologized, they said they were doing their job,” Sarmento said.
As for the actual suspect, he was caught later that afternoon after he had called 911 and confessed that he got in a fight. He was transported to the hospital and booked, according to police.
Sarmento said he filed an official complaint with the department.