Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jeremy Barnes did not disclose to the County that he had been the subject of an excessive force lawsuit during his time with the Grants Police Department, Sheriff’s Office Maj. Randy Sanches said in a June 10 interview.
Since a May 10 incident at Española Valley High School, Sanches said he has been trying to learn more about what took place in Grants and what Barnes’ role was in the lawsuit.
“Your phone call has prompted me to call Grants,” Sanches said. “I’ve called Grants (Police Department), I’ve called Grants City Hall, I’ve called Grants (Human Resources), to see what it is that you’re looking at and I haven’t gotten a response from anybody except for Grants (Police Department), who said that they don’t have anything.”
Barnes was named in a federal civil rights lawsuit in Grants following the July 6, 2013 arrest of Leroy Gallegos. A police report written by another officer named in the suit said Barnes was a part of the use of force incident, even though Sheriff James Lujan said Barnes told him otherwise.
“It just so happens, (Barnes) showed up after the fact, so they used him as a witness (in the lawsuit),” Lujan said in a May 30 interview.
The Grants Police Department report, authored by Cpl. Moses Marquez, said otherwise.
“Det. McKinney and Officer Barnes struggled with Mr. Gallegos on the ground for a prolonged period of time,” McKinney wrote. “Mr. Gallegos was actively resisting. I announced Taser to the officers and deployed the taser cartridge in his lower back.”
According to an amended complaint in the civil rights lawsuit filed by Gallegos in July 2017, Barnes and three other officers “used physical force in seizing and detaining Plaintiff on July 6, 2013, including but not limited to their application of Taser shocks to Plaintiff while he lay on the ground prone with his hands handcuffed behind his back.”
Lujan said his understanding from Barnes was that he was only a witness to the incident, and that was why his part in the suit was dismissed in March 2018.
Dwight E. Thompson, the attorney who represented Gallegos, stipulated to the dismissal, but declined to comment on the case or the alleged settlement.
Whether or not Barnes actually deployed his taser in the Grants incident is unclear, but depositions from the suit indicate Barnes was there from the start of the incident.
Lujan said Barnes showed up after the arrest and transported Gallegos to the hospital.
“Barnes — they had me in his vehicle,” Gallegos stated during a May 2018 deposition. “He talked so much trash on the way to the hospital.”
Gallegos testified that at the hospital the doctor looked at Barnes and asked if officers had actually tased him three or four times.
“And (Barnes) says, ‘Yeah, it will teach his ass to run from us,’” Gallegos said. “And (the doctor) said, ‘Officer what are you laughing at? This isn’t a laughing matter. This man should be dead.’”
Barnes tased the student at Española Valley High School three times, for a total of 15 seconds.
Lujan said he believed Barnes’ version of events, that he was only a witness to the force incident, but it is unclear if he has actually seen the depositions in the case, or the original Grants Police Department report.
“If we show (Barnes was dishonest) in black and white and it shows in there that he was a part of it, then we have a bigger problem then what we even started with,” Lujan said. “If it did, I will deal with that appropriately. Don’t lie to me, tell me the truth and I’ll have your back.”
Barnes did not list his time with the Grants Police Department in his application to the Sheriff’s Office. Instead, he listed the New Mexico National Guard where he was a recruiting and retention assistant; CCS Temp Services, where he was a heavy truck operator; and Mobile Mini, where he was a sales representative.
A letter of recommendation authored by Kevin Dobbs included in his application said Barnes was “let go” by the Grants Police Department while still on probationary status.
“I am not at liberty to discuss the details of this but it is my understanding that all issues have been remedied,” Dobbs wrote.
Another letter of recommendation came from a co-defendant in the lawsuit filed by Gallegos. Jason Frank, who supervised Barnes, wrote that he was “reliable,” and that it had been a pleasure working with him.
The other letters of recommendation included in Barnes’ application were from various individuals in the Grants area, but all were dated in 2014, before Gallegos filed his federal civil rights lawsuit.
Barnes remains on duty with the Sheriff’s Office, and Sanches said June 10 that a review of the Española Valley High School taser incident is not yet complete.