A man who previously filed a 2017 tort claim against the City of Española and Española Police Sgt. Greg Esparza for excessive force, filed another claim, April 22, for malicious prosecution.
Gino Tapia’s attorney, Sheri Raphaelson, wrote in a tort claim notice that Esparza allegedly retaliated against her client for filing the original tort claim.
Tapia filed his first tort claim on Dec. 10, 2017 and alleged that Esparza shot him in the chest with a stun gun, even though Tapia did not pose a threat to anyone. The stun gun incident happened on Sept. 17, 2017. Esparza suspected Tapia could have been a shoplifting suspect.
“On or about January 29, 2018 charges were filed against Mr. Tapia in the Espanola (sic) Municipal Court for shoplifting, Criminal Trespass, Resisting Evading or Obstructing an Officer, and Refusing to Obey an Officer,” Raphaelson wrote in the tort claim.
Esparza filed the charges four months after the original incident. Because they were filed in Española Municipal Court, they do not appear in online court record searches.
“These charges being brought against Mr. Tapia were by information and belief done in retaliation for his filing of a tort claim notice and exercising his civil rights,” Raphaelson wrote. “The filing of the charges in this retaliatory manner constitutes malicious prosecution and abuse of process.”
Raphaelson claims Tapia has suffered from anxiety, stress, fear and other personal injury as a result of Esparza’s actions.
“There is a likelihood that litigation will ensue as a result of this malicious prosecution and abuse of process,” she wrote.
In a Feb. 27 interview, Raphaelson said, initially, Esparza didn’t even take a police report.
“We filed (the first) tort claim and then there was a report,” she said.
According to the Dec. 10 tort claim, Esparza got out of his car, parked on Riverside Drive, as Tapia was walking past Chili’s.
“Sergeant Esparza got out of his vehicle, demanded that Mr. Tapia stop, accusing him of shoplifting, which Mr. Tapia denied, and then deployed his taser at Mr. Tapia’s chest,” Raphaelson wrote in the claim. “Mr. Tapia feared that Sergeant Esparza was going to continue to batter him so he pulled the taser prongs out of his chest and ran away.”
Emails between Raphaelson and city officials state Esparza did not have his lapel camera on for the incident and, four months after the incident, he had also not completed a use-of-force report, required by Department policy.
According to the Department’s own policies, Esparza was not allowed to use that level of force on a person fleeing from a suspected non-violent misdemeanor.
Esparza has been named in a total of five lawsuits and three tort claims since 2013. One of the tort claims and two of the lawsuits were settled for a total of $890,000.
Esparza was acquitted in one lawsuit, following a civil trial on March 9, 2017, for the alleged beating of a paraplegic man.
One lawsuit and the two tort claims filed by Tapia are pending.
The settled tort claims and lawsuits were:
• Stella and Emilio Randall received a $650,000 settlement, after they were allegedly attacked, shocked and otherwise mistreated at their son’s fatal overdose by Esparza and other Española Police Department officers on July 17, 2013.
• John Vigil received a $125,000 settlement, after Esparza allegedly broke his hand during a traffic stop, Oct. 28, 2013.
• Tegra Donnelly received a $50,000 settlement, after Esparza allegedly shocked, choked and beat him on Feb. 15, 2014.
• Virginia Valdez received a $65,000 settlement, after Esparza allegedly threw her to the ground, after she was accused of stealing her own car, June 3, 2016.