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Hopkins cops sued for arresting the wrong guy as a sex offender

Bartolo Zavala Reyes is expected to do a decade behind bars.

Bartolo Zavala Reyes is expected to do a decade behind bars.

In mid-2014, a Hopkins girl told police that her great-uncle had molested her after he moved in with her parents. She was six years old at the time of the abuse. 

She and her mother provided Hopkins detective Mark Kyllo with a physical description of the suspect, Bartolo Zavala Reyes, and the mother confirmed that a Facebook page the department found belonged to the perpetrator. 

Despite having a photo to work from — and a description of the alleged abuser, a man in his late 40s — Kyllo incorrectly determined that 34-year-old Bartolo Torres Zavala, a Minneapolis man with a few traffic violations on his record, was the guy he was looking for. 

Bartolo Zavala Reyes.

Bartolo Torres Zavala. 

Pretty close, but not quite. 

The curious case of how one Hispanic man did time for another's crimes was recently detailed by Minnesota Lawyer. Bartolo Torres is now suing the city of Hopkins, and its detective, for getting him mixed up with a sex offender. 

In August 2014, Detective Kyllo got a tip from the mother: The abuser had been caught in an unrelated case, another instance of child sexual abuse, and was in Ramsey County Jail. He went and met Bartolo Zavala there, twice interviewing him face-to-face.  

Then, in November, Detective Kyllo was granted a warrant for Bartolo Torres — again, using the wrong name and age, and therefore targeting the wrong guy. In February 2015, Torres was driving through Richfield with his wife and two kids when he was pulled over for a traffic violation.

The cop ran the driver's name, which produced a hit for a "high-risk felony" warrant. They pulled their guns and pointed them at Torres, who was undoubtedly confused, but compliant. 

Torres spent two days in Hennepin County Jail. At his first court appearance, Torres' publicly appointed attorney presented a defense attorney's dream: The county had the wrong guy, and he could prove it.

Torres had never lived in Hopkins, nor done time in Ramsey County Jail, where Detective Kyllo interviewed Bartolo Zavala. The county agreed, and a month later all charges were dropped.

Torres' attorney Bruce Nestor told Minnesota Lawyer that the case had scared Torres' wife and kids, who watched their dad being taken into custody at gunpoint. Torres also lost his job during his two-day stint in jail. 

He's seeking damages in excess of $50,000 from the city, for what Nestor says is the worst case of false arrest he's seen.

"We brought a constitutional claim that it went beyond sloppiness, that it was reckless," Nestor said. "I don’t know that it was knowing and intentional, but it gets close."

As for Zavala Reyes, the man Hopkins cops actually wanted, he's pleaded guilty and is expected to be sentenced to 10 years in prison. He'd been in police custody the whole time.