Top 5 This Week

Related Posts

Las Animas County Sheriff’s Office, county officials reach $1.5 million settlement for unarmed man tased in face

A man who was shocked in the face with a Taser by a Las Animas County sheriff’s deputy in 2022 was awarded $1.5 million in a lawsuit settlement with county officials.

The federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Kenneth Espinoza named Lt. Henry Trujillo, Deputy Mikhail Noel, Undersheriff Rey Santistevan and Sheriff Derek Navarette, as well as the sheriff’s office and county commissioners, as defendants, according to a Monday news release from Espinoza’s attorneys announcing the settlement.

“This settlement is not only a victory for Mr. Espinoza and his family,” Espinoza’s attorney Kevin Mehr stated in the news release. “It’s a victory for the people of Colorado and sends a clear message to thugs like this who think a badge is a license for brutality, your day is done.”

The Nov. 29, 2022, incident and subsequent lawsuit exposed Trujillo’s criminal history and five civil protection orders requested against him. Trujillo had worked at the sheriff’s office intermittently since 2001 and was the third in command at the agency at the time the lawsuit was filed.

Trujillo has been convicted of several criminal charges between 1997 and 2009 in Las Animas County, including displaying a weapon, harassment and fighting in public.

“If the sheriff won’t hold you accountable, we will,” Mehr said. “All eyes are now on Sheriff Navarette and his administration to see how they move forward in a way that ensures transparency and that LASCO no longer employs and promotes criminals.”

Twelve days before arresting Espinoza, the county settled a different federal lawsuit alleging Trujillo and Noel used excessive force when they forcibly arrested a deaf woman in a hospital, where she was recovering from a suicide attempt. The deputies had been called to the hospital not for an alleged crime but to transport her to treatment.

Investigations into the incident showed Santistevan signed off on a use-of-force report on Espinoza getting shocked with a Taser without reviewing the case or the officer’s body-worn camera, according to the news release.

Additionally, an independent report from the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office recommended a criminal investigation into Trujillo and Noel.

The incident began when Noel pulled over Espinoza’s son for following him too closely. Espinoza was going to the same place as his son and stopped when his son was pulled over, according to the lawsuit.

The deputies told Espinoza to leave, and he initially refused to leave because the street they were on is public. But when he decided to leave anyway, Noel and Trujillo yelled at Espinoza to stop and get out of the truck, body cam footage showed.

Espinoza stopped the truck and the deputies grabbed his arm through the driver’s window, pulling it backward while simultaneously telling him to get out of the car, the lawsuit states.

Noel then shocked Espinoza with a Taser, and Trujillo pulled him from his truck to arrest him.

The deputies then walked him to a police SUV, but Espinoza said he couldn’t get inside because they were grabbing at him. Trujillo then shot Espinoza with a Taser cartridge, striking him in the face and chest before slamming the door on his leg.

Espinoza faced several charges in connection to the incident, but prosecutors later dropped all the charges.

Get more Colorado news by signing up for our daily Your Morning Dozen email newsletter.

Popular Articles