Jeremy Barnes on phone

Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Barnes (right) talked on the phone to multiple people after he used a Taser on a 15-year-old Española Valley High School student May 10. One of the multiple calls he placed was to David Lujan who is in charge of school security. After Barnes informed him of the situation, Lujan asked jovially if the student had urinated on himself when tased.

The consequences of police violence in Rio Arriba County will likely drive up the County’s insurance deductible.

In the last 12 years, roughly half of the $5.1 million paid out by OneBeacon, the County’s insurance provider, has resulted from claims against County law enforcement, County records show.

In 2019, though, there was a straw “that broke the camel’s back,” both County Manager Tomas Campos and County Risk Management Director Sophie Martinez said.

OneBeacon will not be bidding for the County’s insurance policy in the coming year, mostly because of the lawsuit that followed County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Barnes’ tasing of a 15-year-old student with special needs in May 2019, County Manager Tomas Campos said.

And the deductible will “for sure” rise from the current $25,000, possibly to $50,000 or $100,000, Campos said.

OneBeacon believes that the County’s loss ratios are too high, Campos said.

The loss from the tasing incident reached close to $1 million, a figure much higher than previous years’ losses from law enforcement liability, according to the County’s loss run report from OneBeacon, which runs from 2008 to 2020.

The family of the student who was tased sued the Española School District and Rio Arriba County and settled for $1.3 million. OneBeacon paid the family $941,667 on behalf of the County, while the County paid $33,333 from its General Fund. The School District paid $300,000.

A grand jury indicted Barnes in November 2019 for tasing the boy, a 15-year-old student at Española Valley High School.

The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office charged Barnes with abuse of a child, false imprisonment, aggravated battery and violation of ethical principles of public service.

A status conference in the case is scheduled for Aug. 4, and a jury selection hearing for Aug. 10.

In a video of the incident, Barnes, who had no license to use a taser, slams the child face down onto a desk and says, “I’m going to f****** tase you.”

School Security Guard Jack Romero struggles with the child and partially pulls off the child’s shirt, and then Barnes tases him in the chest.

Romero forces the boy to the ground and holds his neck down while the boy screams in pain.

The County’s loss run report contains numerous other claims against law enforcement as well, including most recently a July 2019 claim alleging the claimant was given an overdose of Librium, a drug used to treat anxiety and alcohol withdrawal, while an inmate at the Tierra Amarilla Detention Center in 2017; a September 2019 claim alleging false arrest and a violation of free speech rights; and a December 2019 claim of personal injury from a violation of civil rights.

In total, between 2008 and 2020, OneBeacon paid $5,137,842 on behalf of the County.

For law enforcement liability claims between 2008 and 2020, OneBeacon paid a total of $2,379,650, which accounts for roughly 50 percent of the overall total.

Between 2008 and 2009, OneBeacon paid a total of $71,412 in law enforcement claims; $0 between 2009 and 2010; $57,708 between 2010 and 2011; $0 between 2011 and 2012; $245,930 between 2012 and 2013; $102,241 between 2013 and 2014; $183,937 between 2014 and 2015; $708,273 between 2015 and 2016; $0 between 2016 and 2017; $0 between 2017 and 2018; $982,910 between 2018 and 2019 and $27,239 between 2019 and 2020.  

Martinez said the County’s insurance broker, Daniel’s Insurance, is currently going out to bid for the County and will likely find bidders and ultimately a new insurance provider in the next month or so.

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