Video: Officers sued over use of force in NM jail

Suspect has a history in the criminal justice system, court records show

By Andy Stiny
Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE, N.M.  A Taos man claims in a lawsuit that several State Police officers violated his civil rights with "excessive force" after they Tasered and assaulted him at the Taos County jail.

Two of the officers named as defendants were also involved in a controversial October traffic stop near Taos in which a third officer fired at a van full of children, resulting in his dismissal.

March 7 video from the Taos jail vestibule, obtained by the Journal under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act, shows officers taking John Moya off a bench after his handcuffs are removed and one officer taking what appears to be a Taser from his belt as everyone ends up on the floor. But the brief struggle is only half visible and any use of a Taser is out of the camera's field of view.

Moya is initially led into the room with a hood over his head, possibly to prevent spitting. Once the hood is removed, both before and after the tussle, Moya appears to spit at officers. He head-butts a door window as he's being led out.

Moya, 35, was arrested on a probation violation at his Taos home where he was found hiding in an attic crawl space, said State Police spokesman Lt. Emmanuel Gutierrez. "Mr. Moya was hostile and kicking one of the officers and spitting on the other officer," said Gutierrez.

Moya kicked at a police car window, hit his head on it and was taken to Holy Cross Hospital in Taos to be checked out after going to jail, according to Gutierrez. Moya has a history in the criminal justice system, court records show.

State Police has no comment on the lawsuit, Gutierrez said Tuesday.

According to the complaint, officers Tony DeTavis, Anthony Luna, Dominic Romero, David Saiz and David Edmiston "physically attacked and Tased" Moya at the jail while he "was still in leg shackles." The suit also maintains that State Police "had a custom, policy, or practice of using a Taser device on uncooperative leg-shackled persons."

While attorney Alan Maestas, one of the lawyers who filed the suit, says the video of the struggle in the vestibule appears to show Moya in shackles, that can't be seen on the copy obtained by the Journal. Moya's legs are clearly free and his handcuffs are removed before the struggle on the floor.

The State Police use of force policy says officers should avoid using the Taser "on a handcuffed or secured prisoner, absent overtly assaultive, overtly resistive or fleeing behavior ... that can be reasonably dealt with less intrusively."

The District Court complaint includes photos purporting to show injuries to Moya from being "drive stunned," referring to when the air cartridge is removed from a Taser and it is applied directly. Later, Moya suffered a concussion when officers threw him onto a jail cell's concrete cot, the complaint alleges.

Last fall, officers DeTavis and Luna were shown in a dash-cam video that went viral on the Web and national television documenting a chaotic October traffic stop of Oriana Farrell from Memphis. At one point, DaTavis is seen smashing out a window on Farrell's van as children inside scream.

Copyright 2014 the Albuquerque Journal

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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