New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas has taken legal action against Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan in Balderas’s pursuit to review a May 10 Taser incident involving Deputy Jeremy Barnes at Española Valley High School.
Barnes was seen in lapel video using a Taser on a 15-year-old special education student at the High School. The family of the student has since filed a lawsuit against the Española School District and the Sheriff’s Office.
Barnes remained at work following the incident and a formal review was not started until it became public.
“Schools should be a place where students feel safe and protected,” Balderas said May 29 after seeing the lapel video. “I am aggressively investigating this disturbing incident.”
The Attorney General’s Office sent a letter the same day from Special Investigations Division Director Benjamin Baker asking the Sheriff’s Office to preserve and provide all evidence from the May 10 incident.
“If you are unable to provide these materials by Monday, June 3, 2019, please contact me directly,” Baker wrote.
Baca said Lujan never responded to the letter. Baker sent a second letter June 18, asking for materials from not only the Barnes incident, but also for materials regarding a June 3 Taser incident at the Rio Arriba County Detention Center involving another Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Deputy, Leon Gallegos.
“We asked for these items to be provided within a week,” Baker wrote. “To date, we have not received the materials requested. We ask that within 72 hours, that your office respond with a voluntary production of items listed below in order to ensure a prompt review of this case.”
Again, Baca said, Lujan did not respond.
“The Rio Arriba Sheriff’s Office did not respond to multiple written requests to turn over records related to Officer Barnes,” Attorney General’s Office Spokesman Matt Baca said Monday. “Therefore the Office of the Attorney General has triggered compulsory legal action to ensure lawful production of those records.”
Lujan has until Thursday (7/11) to comply, Baca said.
Compulsory legal action could include a subpoena, with which Balderas would seek to try and force Lujan to comply with his request for information.
Baca said Tuesday the “compulsory legal action” documents had already been delivered to Lujan.
Sheriff’s Office Maj. Randy Sanches declined to comment on the assumed subpoena, or on why the Office had not provided documents concerning Barnes to the Attorney General’s office.
Sanches previously said the Attorney General was welcome to review the documentation at the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office in Española. He would not say if that message had been communicated to Baker or Balderas.