ACLU Sues New Mexico Sheriff's Deputies for Beating Two Young Men

Affiliate: ACLU of New Mexico
May 4, 2005 12:00 am

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ACLU of New Mexico
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SANTA FE, NM — The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against Chaves County Sheriff’s deputies for brutalizing two young men at a private home in Roswell two years ago.

Michael Gustamantes and Ramon Garcia, who were 16 and 20 at the time, charge that officers Barry Dixon, Danny Moore, and Mike Wood shot them at close range with pepper ball rounds and beat and choked them while they were lying on the ground and restrained by handcuffs.

“This is an example of wanton abuse and willful disregard for the public’s safety,” said ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson. “Sheriff’s deputies essentially ambushed Miguel and Ramon. They didn’t announce themselves. Miguel was shot twice in the back.”

The young men claim that the assault was unprovoked following a verbal dispute with a neighbor that had ended with a handshake to resolve the disagreement. Officers followed them into a nearby house, where they shot randomly into a room full of people who had gathered for a graduation party.

The sheriff’s department charged Garcia with resisting, evading or obstructing an officer, but the charges eventually were dropped.

“The only motivation for those charges was to cover up and excuse the injuries that the officers inflicted upon Ramon. Ramon wasn’t fleeing law enforcement officers. He was running to save himself,” said Simonson.

The complaint filed yesterday on behalf of the young men by ACLU of New Mexico Cooperating Attorneys Art Nieto and Michael Doyle seeks damages for excessive and unnecessary force, false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, assault and battery, and malicious abuse of process.

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