The family of a teenager with special needs reached a settlement with Rio Arriba County for an undisclosed sum Monday after a sheriff’s deputy tased the child in May 2019.
Judge Francis Mathew approved the settlement in a closed-door hearing.
Now-former deputy Jeremy Barnes still faces a May 2020 trial over the incident on charges of abuse of a child, aggravated battery, violation of ethical principles of public service, and false imprisonment.
The then-15-year-old student had been taken to an administrative office in Española Valley High School for allegedly possessing a cannabis product when Barnes, in the course of arresting the physically compliant boy, slammed him into a table when the child called him a homophobic slur and tased him as security guard Jack Romero grappled with the child.
Sheriff James Lujan and Barnes’ criminal defense attorney Thomas Clark have maintained Barnes’ actions were consistent with his training—which included a checkered career in law enforcement and corrections, with allegations of violent or harassing behavior at several previous jobs.
Public records showed Barnes was not given the required training for a school resource officer in the Española School District and was not trained to use the recently-deployed Taser model he used in the incident.
The boy’s civil attorney Shannon Kennedy said she will act as a victim’s advocate in the upcoming criminal trial.
“(The family) is just grateful to the civil justice system and the relatively prompt response of the school district and the county to meet (my client’s) needs,” she said.
The Española School District approved a new Memorandum of Understanding with the Española Police Department Feb. 5 to place two student resource officers in schools (see story on page B1). The agreement requires specialized training for those officers, including training on child psychology, children with disabilities and other special needs, positive behavior interventions, and conflict resolution.
County Attorney Adán Trujillo could not be reached for comment on the settlement by press time Tuesday.