A grand jury indicted former Rio Arriba Sheriff’s Office deputy Jeremy Barnes Nov. 13 over his May tasing of a 15-year-old student with special needs who had been called to the Española Valley High School administrative offices for allegedly possessing a cannabis product.
Barnes’ lawyer in the criminal case, Thomas Clark, said the charges, which were originally leveled by state Attorney General Hector Balderas, are not what they seem.
“I don’t know what the political motivation may be, but my feeling is that Jeremy Barnes is being scapegoated,” he said. “Over and over and over again, the Attorney General’s Office declines to prosecute fatal police shootings and for whatever reason they’ve decided to target Mr. Barnes.”
Barnes was charged with abuse of a child, false imprisonment, aggravated battery, and violation of ethical principles of public service. The boy’s family filed a civil rights violation complaint against Barnes and Sheriff James Lujan in September, as well as a tort claim against the Rio Arriba County Board of County Commissioners.
Clark claimed Barnes did nothing wrong.
“Mr. Barnes appears to have behaved in a manner consistent with his training and his position as a law enforcement officer,” he said. “I mean, this is a 15-year-old kid who was acting out of control and attacking a security officer.”
Lapel video of the incident does not show the child attacking anyone—though a security guard told Barnes he previously swung a backpack at her.
The boy’s attorney Shannon Kennedy said he had a behavioral intervention plan stating he should not be confronted aggressively.
The video shows Barnes slam the child—who was facing away from Barnes to be handcuffed—face down into a desk while saying “I’m going to f****** tase you” after the student called the deputy a slur.
Egged on by Security Guard Jack Romero who started struggling with the boy and partially pulled off his shirt, Barnes tased him in the chest seconds later. As the boy screamed on the ground and the taser continued to cycle, Romero held his knee on the child’s neck.
Kennedy said the video proves her client did not attack the guard.
“These two grown men are now claiming that they couldn’t handle a young man,” she said. “I represent a family that’s been devastated by the actions of Jeremy Barnes, and if he was a real man, he would stand up and apologize.”
She said she has been unable to contact Barnes to serve him with the lawsuit. Online court records do not list an attorney for Barnes in the civil case.
She said while the boy’s family is grateful for the indictment, she does not think the criminal case will directly impact the civil case.
Asked about Clark’s claims, Attorney General’s spokesperson Matt Baca said in a statement, “A citizen grand jury agreed with our position that this child abuse case is appropriate for criminal prosecution.”
Barnes is set to be arraigned on the criminal charges Dec. 2.