A 32-year-old Denver man has been arrested on suspicion of "stalking" a Denver Police officer. His alleged beef: A two-year-old traffic violation.
Court records show that Francisco Castro-Beruman was booked into Denver County Jail on February 12 on a felony count stalking for allegedly threatening Officer Larry Mortimer and placing the patrolman "under surveillance" with a hand-held video camera during an incident late last year.
Mortimer apparently became so concerned that he posted a photo of Castro-Beruman "at his house by the front door, for his family" and began carrying handcuffs and his personal firearm while off-duty "in preparation for a confrontation," according to court filings.
Castro-Berumen, who is currently free on a $50,000 bond, could not be reached for his side of the story. But here's how the Mortimer described the chain-of-events in the arrest warrant:
• May 2008: Officer Mortimer pulled Castro-Beruman over for failing to yield. The driver also failed to provide an ID, proof of insurance or vehicle registration. Mortimer wrote a citation and transported Castro-Beruman downtown for identification.
• November 2010: Mortimer says he was eating at the Que Chilada restaurant at 274 S. Sheridan Blvd when he saw Castro-Beruman at the front register, ordering take-out. Castro-Beruman then began to "glare at Officer L. Mortimer and appeared to be upset." Later that day, Mortimer was on routine patrol when he noticed he was being followed by a red van and that the driver was taping him with a video camera.
Mortimer radioed another officer and they devised a plan to pull the van over. But the van turned into a parking lot and parked. The driver was attempting to walk away but was stopped by the officers. Castro-Beruman provided a drivers license but no registration or proof of insurance. "Castro-Beruman admitted to following him and claimed that Officer L. Mortimer was driving by his house, but would not advise where he lived." Castro-Beruman was given a citation and released.
• January 18: Castro-Beruman contested the citation and the case went to trial. Mortimer testified and the driver was found guilty. Mortimer later stated that Castro-Beruman "was very upset at him and angry at the court's decision." Mortimer said he felt "he needed to be more cautious at work" and had to "be on guard" because of fears that Castro-Beruman might attempt to "confront him at his house."
• February 9: According to Mortimer's official account, he was again eating at Que Chilada when Castro-Berman entered and ordered food for take out. Castro-Beruman "immediately made eye contact" with the officer. Mortimer stated, "Good morning, Francisco," to which Castro-Berman replied, "Why don't you be a man and come over to my house, you know where it is?" The officer responded, "Don't go there." Castro-Berumen got his food and left, but pulled up next to the restaurant window in his vehicle and gave Mortimer the middle finger before driving off.
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• In mid-February, the Denver DA's office felt there was enough evidence against Castro-Berumen to seek a Class 5 Felony charge that he had "made a credible threat" to Mortimer and, in connection with the treat, "repeatedly followed, approached, contacted or placed [the officer] under surveillance."
A court-record search reveals that Castro-Beruman is a habitual traffic offender with at least 32 separate vehicle-related violations going back to 1995, including multiple instances of driving without proof of insurance and not showing a driver's license. But do the above accusations by Officer Mortimer make Castro-Beruman a full-blown stalker or just a very bad driver with an authority problem?
A preliminary hearing where a judge will review the charges being proposed by prosecutors is set for March 21.
More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Ronald Keithline, ID'd as Boulder hit-and-run victim, had a habit of lying down in roadways."