Accused of Wrongful Search, Officer Slams Cuffed Man

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Española Police Department Officer Gabriel Wadt has faced minimal disciplinary action over an October incident in which he slammed a physically compliant and handcuffed man—detained in relation to a noise complaint—to the concrete ground and then berated him in a profanity-laced tirade.

Chris Payne filed a claim for damages with the city later that month, saying he will likely sue over the battery that left him with anxiety and, due to his inability to catch his fall, bruises and a large cut on his face.

Department Deputy Chief Jack Jones said the officer, formerly a Rio Arriba Sheriff’s deputy, received a verbal admonishment and was sent to a use of force class, which all officers ultimately attended.

Jones said Wadt and his accompanying officers reported the incident to him that night, and that he reviewed the footage—available on the Rio Grande SUN website and YouTube channel—the next day.

“(Wadt) sees where he was at fault—not at fault—where he made his mistakes,” Jones said. “Sometimes something just sets someone off, and it’s unfortunate that it happens for police officers but sometimes it does.”

Lapel video from Officer Zack Wright shows Payne, handcuffed behind his back, argue with officers about an earlier interaction and then tell Wadt “you have no right” when Wadt leaned into Payne’s car with a flashlight, sans search warrant.

Wadt shines the flashlight in Payne’s face and tells him several times to “shut the f*** up right now,” then abruptly throws Payne to the ground by the back of his neck when Payne repeats his protests.

After about five minutes of intermittent arguing and attempts to contact a relative to collect Payne’s children, the man, still on the ground where he fell directly by stairs, asks someone to take a picture of his fresh injuries after “this motherf----- threw me on the ground.”

“I’ll throw you outside the f------ handcuffs too, dude, I don’t give a f---,” Wadt says as he approaches Payne. “You’re a piece of s---, dude. Just shut the f--- up. Wonderful f------ father, sitting on the ground in f------ handcuffs. Garbage. You live in a f------ trailer, dude. Shut the f--- up. God you’re worthless. You’re f------ worthless.”

Neither Wright nor Officer Anthony Martinez, also on scene, address Wadt’s violence or outburst other than refusing to photograph Payne’s injuries until he gets to jail. The assault shown in the video does not appear in Wright’s incident report, though Jones said the officer did report it verbally.

Wright’s report states a neighbor called police late at night about loud music coming from Payne’s trailer, and that Payne twice turned the music back up as soon as officers left. On their third response to his home in half an hour, the officers arrested Payne for disorderly conduct, refusing to obey an officer, and violation of a city noise ordinance. Online court records show no such charges against Payne.

Jones emphasized a characterization of Payne as a disorderly bully with a criminal history.

“The unfortunate thing in this is that for this guy’s neighbors we should have taken this guy the first time to jail,” he said of the initial noise complaint. “(Wadt) is one of our better officers as we look at the things that go on. This officer has the courage to stand up to bullies like (Payne).”

Payne’s civil attorney Sheri Raphaelson said the Oct. 19 incident was different from other excessive uses of force, because there was no justification for any force to begin with.

“It’s up to the Police Department to do whatever disciplinary actions they feel is appropriate,” she said. “Nothing they do now will change the fact that Mr. Payne was wrongly injured.”

She said she wants to see if the city will agree to a settlement before she files a formal tort claim—injured parties have two years from the date of the incident to take this step—but that no one from the city government has responded to her Oct. 30 letter.

Jones said a payout is likely.

“This is gonna get (Payne) a little bit of money, absolutely it is,” he said. “I don’t know how the city is not gonna pay him some money.”

Interim police chief Roger Jimenez said while the incident went against Department policy, it was not indicative of Wadt’s performance as a police officer.

“The fact that the officer came forward before any media or tort claims is huge to us,” he said. “It’s a sign of integrity.”

Jimenez has historically touted a desire to instill values of community policing and de-escalation tactics in his Department. He said he is working to arrange for a psychologist to visit monthly or quarterly to provide mental health checkups to all the city’s first responders.

(8) comments

K Rino

FREE ASTORGA!!! Let him deal with these crooked cops.

B.Peru

“It’s a sign of integrity.” His previous convictions?

hawk-24

Abuse of power is very very common with officers like this guy. He has to be held accountable. All of the bad ones will continue this type of assault if he is let off without disciplinary action. For the good of everybody.

Chere

Just google Mr Wadt and you have to wonder why he is on the police force. Domestic violence, animal cruelty ect.

1983 Action

Interesting story RGS. Even more interesting is WHY it took nearly 3 months for you to report on it? I am fairly sure the tort claim notice came to the city immediately after this man's rights were so severely violated. It was then public record immediately. Perhaps your reporter has been busy, or was this story temporarily buried in the interim since IPC Jimenez and DC Jones are "sources" who provide your reporter with a constant flow of "inside information" and "tips" from the EPD and other city "news." Just asking!

Isn't it rich that Jimenez would mention and seem to encourage "integrity?" I seem to recall that he has been before the city council several times and has repeatedly been called on the carpet regarding his nasty habit of not telling the truth (See RGS 5/16/19 edition where he is quoted as saying, "lying is a strong word," when he was caught doing that very thing!). Also remember Jimenez was the guy who was involved in the texting scandal on his city phone laughing at making and rude comments about a female member of the public and didn't have the brains enough to know it was wrong (so much for integrity!). The truth is that the city's mayor buries EPDs dirt and coddles Jimenez because of political and perhaps other favors. Jimenez is not even qualified to be a line officer, much less any type of chief in any department. His main qualification is that he is a sycophant of the highest order who caters to the mayors severely inflated ego. That is why the EPD continues to be a cesspool of crooked outlaws who care more about growing their beards and having their names in the news rather than protecting the city.

The interaction observed in this video should have immediately led to an internal affairs investigation and suspension of officer Wadt, without question. Also, officer Wright, who witnessed the whole thing without providing corrective action or protecting this citizen should have been investigated and disciplined as well. Any self respecting professional law enforcement agency would have done the right thing. Jimenez has been given a blank check and it will continue to cost the city. Sadly however the city will continue to bury their head in the sand and continue to write out checks. No big deal, right Jack? Leadership starts at the top. Mayor, Jimenez and Jones talk a good game. Truth is they are all cut from the same dirty cloth and just want to pad their own nests. Que Lastima!

City Voters will have the opportunity to change this in March. Las Vegas' mayor just resigned due to her criminal wrongdoing. Time for mayor Sanchez to do the same. AG Hector Balderas are you done with your investigation yet?

Same Ol Same Ol

According to Interim police Chief Jimenez, the ofcr’s actions went against dept policy but, “The fact that the officer came forward before any media or tort claims is huge to us… It’s a sign of integrity.” O!... M!!… G!!! He came forward because he wanted to get HIS side of the story to PD mgmt first before anyone complained (citizen or suspect) or narc’ed (fellow officers) and definitely before mgmt watched the video. That’s not integrity. That’s guilt and guile. And what about Ofcr Wright’s official (sworn) written report that DOESN’T mention Ofcr Wadt’s unlawful use of force? Doesn’t that speak to integrity (or lack thereof)? Guess Wadt has more integrity than Wright, at least according to IPC Jimenez. “Jimenez has historically touted a desire to instill values of community policing and de-escalation tactics in his Department.” Desire doesn’t equal action. Action equals action. Since Jimenez became IPC, how many hours of formal de-escalation and community policing training have field personnel attended and recorded with the NMLEA in Santa Fe? How about when he was the DC? Please, IPC, publicly share. Or do we need to submit a FOIA request? “He said he is working to arrange for a psychologist to visit monthly or quarterly to provide mental health checkups to all the city’s first responders.” Desire doesn’t equal action. Action equals action. Why hasn’t this already happened? What’s the hold up? And when the psychologist informs that any number of ofcrs (including any in mid-, upper- and executive/command mgmt) needs help and/or shouldn’t be wearing a badge, what then? Should we even be asking why the IPC is still just the IPC? Good call City Council/City Attorney.

Same Ol Same Ol

“(Wadt) sees where he was at fault—not at fault—where he made his mistakes.” Nice try, DC. Even a child understands that when YOU make a mistake, it’s YOUR fault, and that when something YOU do is a mistake, YOU are at fault. Help me understand, DC. Are you trying to sell us taxpayers that “sometimes something just sets someone off, and it’s unfortunate that it happens for police officers but sometimes it does,” is the best we can hope for or expect from officers who are supposed to be well-enough trained to keep a handle on their violent tendencies? Flashing a bright light in the face of, getting physical with and shouting expletives at a HANDCUFFED suspect are the actions of “one of our better officers”? Really, DC? “This officer has the courage to stand up to bullies like (Payne)”? And by bullies you mean, of course, a HANDCUFFED suspect who has just been thrown to the ground (while handcuffed). REALLY, DC? And then you have the audacity to flippantly speak for the city (Council, HR AND attorney’s office) on how a payout (with taxpayer money, of course) is likely… “…absolutely it is…”, “I don’t know how the city is not gonna pay him some money.” Wow. Seems we’re getting exactly what we’re paying for – both down and UP the PD rank and file

Julia

WHAT does living in a trailer have to do with

anything. Is that officer prejudice have

something against people who live in a

"trailer". That doesn't make a person

garbage. At least they have a roof over their

head regardless if it's a trailer, house

whatever they all equal the same "your

home". I know police officers don't make

much money for what they do, I also

personally know and am related to officers

that live in trailers. So he is basically

degrading some of his fellow officers as

well.

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