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Sheriff's Deputy Tases High School Student

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A 15-year-old special education student at Española Valley High School was tased by Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Barnes on May 10, for allegedly failing to comply with a search.

The incident took place in the High School’s administrative offices, where Assistant Principal Veronica Dean, Deputy Jeremy Barnes and two other staff members were present.

Barnes deployed the Taser in the student's chest area, which the manufacturer warns can induce cardiac arrest or lead to serious injury or death.

The student, through his attorney Shannon Kennedy, asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.

On Wednesday (5/29), New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said he opened a probe into the incident.

"Schools should be a place where students feel safe and protected," Balderas said in a written statement. "I am aggressively investigating this disturbing incident."

'I’m going to tase you'

Barnes activated his lapel camera as he walked into Dean of Students Alex Rosa’s office. The student could be seen sitting in a chair.

A security guard told Barnes that the student swung his backpack at one of the security guards.

“Slammed you with a backpack, that’s not a big deal,” Barnes said.

The security guard then told Barnes that the student was refusing to submit to a search.

“Oh, he’s refusing, that’s fine,” Barnes said. “I’ll put his little ass in handcuffs and take him to Santa Fe.”

Barnes then turned to the student and told him to stand up.

The student stood up, turned around and reached his hands backwards toward Barnes to be placed in cuffs.

Barnes asked again if the student wanted to be cooperative or uncooperative.

“What do you think I’m doing?” the student asked as he turned to look at Barnes.

Barnes told the student again to turn around, at which point the student pulled away, and called Barnes a derogatory name.

Barnes grabbed the student and appeared to slam him facedown onto a desk in the room, and then released him.

Security guard Jack Romero is seen grappling with the student, who was seated in a chair but struggling with Romero.

“I’m going to (expletive) tase you,” Barnes yelled at the student.

The student is still seated in the chair with Romero struggling with him, at this point, the student’s hoodie has come off up over his head. He is still seated.

“Tase him, tase him, tase him!” Romero said.

Barnes shoots the student with a taser, in his upper left chest area, less than four seconds after he warned he was going to tase him.

The student started screaming and tried to get up, Romero moved away as Barnes continued to cycle the taser.

In all, three cycles of electric shocks were used on the student. By the third cycle, the student was face down on the ground, with Romero’s knee placed against the back of his neck and head.

“Put your hands up, put your hands behind your back,” Barnes said.

The student kept repeating “ow, ow, ow,” as Romero held him on the ground and Barnes put handcuffs on him.

“Comply right now, stop resisting, that’s it,” Romero told the student.

The student was cuffed and Romero removed his knee from the student’s neck area and rolled him onto his side.

“Please stop, please,” the student said to Barnes and the security guard.

Barnes contacted E911 Dispatch and requested an ambulance be dispatched to the school. He told dispatchers a Taser had been deployed.

“Ow, that hurt so much,” the student said.

Romero told him that he should have complied.

“What do you mean?” the student asked.

An unidentified woman in the background said something about the student’s “attitude,” and then the student responded about something regarding his belt.

“No, because I can articulate,” Barnes said as he searched the student’s pockets. “No, this is called a wax pen.”

The student told Barnes that what he was currently holding was just a pencil. He then admits that some other unseen object in the video belongs to him.

“Please, take off my belt, everything is in my shorts, I don’t even have anything bad,” the student tells Barnes.

Dispatchers called Barnes on his cellphone, to get more information about the ambulance request. Barnes again told them he had deployed a Taser on a student.

Barnes and Romero got the student to his feet, in handcuffs.

“I can’t ow, ow, ow, my knee,” the student said. “My knee, ow, oh god, my knee, my knee.”

Barnes directed the student to sit in a chair and then answered another call.

“Hey LT, I tased a student, I tried restraining him, they were engaged in a drug exchange, and then he started resisting, started fighting with the security guard,” Barnes said. “I asked him to comply, comply, so I tased him.”

The student was still talking about the pain, he said it felt like Barnes stabbed him in the heart and that the taser prongs in his skin hurt.

“It’s pain compliance,” Barnes told him. “It’s not going to kill you.”

No guardian present

Barnes told the student that he got tased because he was arguing and fighting with Romero.

“I have witnesses,” Barnes said.

At that point, school staff said the student’s mother had arrived at the school.

“She can wait, because he’s going to jail,” Barnes told school staff.

The student immediately asked for his mother.

“Get her, get my mom, I want my mom now,” the student said. “I want her now, please.”

Barnes refused to let school staff bring the mother to be present with her son.

“No, I want her in here, I don’t feel comfortable,” the student said.

Still, Barnes refused to allow the child’s mother to be there with her son. Instead, he told the student his mom was on her way.

“She’s here already, bring her back,” the student said.

Barnes said the mother could wait.

“Do you have tissues so you guys could clean my face?” the student asked.

Dean went and collected some tissue paper and wiped tears from the boy’s eyes and cheeks.

“(I told the mother) that she can’t come back here until you say it’s OK,” an unidentified school employee told Barnes. “She says she’s not comfortable with that. She wants to come back.”

Initially Barnes said to tell the mother to come back, but then changed his mind.

“Jack, can you go tell the mom she needs to be patient?” Barnes said to Romero.

Romero left to go speak with the mother.

Barnes told Romero that the student would be taken to the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office.

When he heard he would be taken to the Sheriff’s Office, the student asked why he was being arrested.

“Resisting arrest, obstructing an investigation, possession of drug paraphernalia,” Barnes said. “That’s what you’re getting charged with.”

Deputy claims IEP doesn't matter

Deputy Monica Salazar arrived to assist Barnes with the situation approximately nine minutes after the student was tased. Barnes left her in the office to supervise the student, and then went to talk to the student’s mother in the front lobby.

Barnes told the mother that based on his “experience,” he attempted to handcuff the student. Barnes said the student pulled away and was fighting with security.

“I told him that if you don’t quit fighting, you’re going to get tased,” Barnes said. “He didn’t want to stop, so he was tased.”

The mother then told Barnes that the student had an individualized education plan that directly addressed the way her son would be approached while at school.

An individualized education plan is a written document developed for school children eligible for special education.

Barnes said the plan did not matter.

Barnes refused to allow the child’s mother to be with him in the back administration office.

It was not until medics arrived and asked Barnes to bring the mother to her child that she was allowed to be in the same room with him. Nearly 16 minutes had passed since her son was tased.

Statements collected by Barnes, and his own report, offer versions of events that deviate from the lapel footage.

Barnes wrote that he told the student he would be charged with obstruction if he did not comply with a request to be searched, but that exchange is not on the captured lapel footage.

“(The student) was given a clear verbal warning, if he continued to resist he was going to be tased,” Barnes wrote. “(The student) continued to actively resist both Jack Romero and I. I then dischared the taser into (the student)...(the student) collapsed on the floor but continued to resist, another cycle of taser was given. (The student) refused to put his hands behind his back and continued to actively resist by refusing to put his hands behind his back, a third cycle was given at which time (the student) complied.”

Barnes wrote that he found two electronic vaping pens used for smoking liquid marijuana which he suspected contained marijuana.

Romero wrote that the student had repeatedly refused to comply with the search, and that the student tried hitting both him and Barnes.

“Barnes told (the student) that if he did not comply he had no choice but to handcuff him,” Romero wrote.

Security Officer Isabel Padilla had a slightly different version of events in her statement. She claimed the student tried to hit Barnes in the face prior to being tased.

Security Officer Fernanda Muñoz wrote that she heard Barnes warn the student “a couple of times about tazing (sic),” prior to the taser being deployed, and that afterward, another student in the hallway “got very frightened and his reaction was to sit looking towards the corner of the wall with tears in his eyes.”

Dean wrote in her statement that the student “tried swinging at the adults.”

“Deputy Barnes was telling (the student) to relax and cooperate,” Dean wrote. “He was refusing. They fell onto the floor and Deputy told him to stop or he would tase him. He kept telling him to stop. (The student) continued to resist and Deputy asked him repeatedly to stop resisting or he would Tase (sic) him.”

District Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez declined to comment on the incident, citing the pending litigation.

Sheriff’s Office Maj. Randy Sanches said May 22 when providing the footage following a public records request that it was a “good” use of force by Barnes.

He said later that his initial assessment of the incident was not the official stance of the Sheriff’s Office.

“I have (reviewed the lapel footage), the Sheriff has, the Undersheriff has, the Captain (Billy Merrifield), I believe has (reviewed the footage),” Sanches said in a phone interview May 24. “(Merrifield) now reviews all use of force.”

Merrifield was at an out-of-state training, and had not yet had an opportunity to review the footage as of May 24.

Sanches said he was basing his assessment on his training and experience, but declined to say what specialized training he had concerning use of force, or use of force involving juvenlies.

When asked about the Sheriff’s Office policies concerning use of force, Sanches said he would have to locate them, but that he did not have time to provide them before press time.

“It’s a use of force that under law would be allowable, and I don’t think would be determined as being unreasonable,” Thomas Grover, an Albuquerque attorney and expert witness on police policy and procedure said Monday after reviewing the footage. “But this is a really good case that shows just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should.”

Grover said that the Barnes did not demonstrate, by “any stretch of the words” a model example of professionalism.

“Just because (the student is) lippy doesn’t mean you tase him, and given the situation where you have a kid that’s surrounded by at least, it looked like four adults, there’s no threat to the (deputy),” Grover said.

Student plans tort claim

Shannon Kennedy, of Kennedy, Kennedy and Ives Law Firm, is representing the family of the student, and said she has sent notice of tort claims to both the District and the Sheriff’s Office.

She said her firm is very concerned about the incident, and that the family may file an additional lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act in response to the incident.

“Claims against Rio Arriba County, Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office, Española Public Schools and Española Valley High School include but are not limited to, unreasonable seizure, negligent training, and/or excessive force by a law enforcement officer and any claim arising under (New Mexico tort claims statutes relating to law enforcement officers),” the notice states.

Kennedy said she was particularly concerned with the area in which Barnes struck the student with the taser prongs. She said the Taser manufacturer had released guidelines for law enforcement that warns against using a taser in the area near the heart.

Barnes deployed three cycles, or used the Taser for a total of 15 seconds on the student, according to a use of force form he prepared for the Sheriff’s Office.

“Most human (Taser) lab testing has not exceeded 15 seconds of (shock) application, and none has exceeded 45 seconds,” A TASER warning to law enforcement published in October 2018 states. “When possible, avoid targeting the frontal chest area near the heart to reduce the risk of potential serious injury or death.”

Save the Kids, a national organization dedicated to ending the incarceration of youth and the school-to-prison pipeline, is critical of the officer’s conduct in the incident.

“We are very concerned that this incident was not handled administratively through a Teen Court venue, which is a much more appropriate forum to address the situation the school staff was concerned about,” Selinda Guerrero, of Save the Kids New Mexico, said Tuesday. “It is critically important not to criminalize youth and to allow restorative justice to take place so that young people can be welcomed back into their education communities and not outcasted. Over 90 percent of adults experiencing incarceration started in the juvenile system.”

(22) comments

Kelly

Most people commenting here seem to have forgotten that kids these days commit murder and every other kind of violent crime They are not innocent any more.If this child had not broken the law the police would not have been called,He created the problem not the school personnel or the law enforcement .Unfortunately the family will probably get a big pay check so what should have taught him a lesson to play by the rules will instead teach him that crime pays-We as a country need to start making people accountable for their actions again instead of making excuses for the idiots in the world !!!!

K Rino

Correct Accountability as stated all staff and officer present should be fired!! Lack of resources not provided would have prevented this on all sides. You would have a different perspective if it were your child and if you did have children or a child with disabilities. If resources were readily available and proper professionals on site you would not see this. The State PED should be earmarking funding specifically for the need of children, staff, and families. The school board should be also advocating for these resources. Unfortunately it will not be done and will not be the last time this occurs. Awareness is key from experience I can say espanola schools do lack specific individuals who specialize in the needs for children with disabilities. They are Special Education teachers but every child requires special needs. Again AWARENESS!!

K Rino

The assistant principal, security, staff present and cop should be relieved of duty indefinitely!!!! No idea of what an IEP is and you have the title of principle.

K Rino

Cop was 3x the size of the student. No need for that type of force. Where’s Governor Grisham getting more support for our special needs students in schools????

Same Ol Same Ol

Just read the latest comments and oh, man, am I LOVIN’ this crowd! THIS is the kind of visceral public response that prompts change! There’s hope for us yet, Española and Rio Arriba!

John Martinez

First of all Deputy Barnes did not have any authorization from JPPO to " take his a$$ into Santa Fe ( to be locked up). Second of all , you could not feel threatened from a teen age child that has his back towards you and is "complying" to be handcuffed. Regardless if he hurt your feelings by calling you an "expletive" name. It also does not matter if this child is "Special Ed" or not, you as a School Resource Officer should have better training to deescalate this situation. Are you actually believing that Sheriff Lujan sees does not see anything wrong with this arrest? And do you actually believe that Sheriff Lujan stopped watching this video half way through? C'mon Sheriff time to come clean, and admit this "arrest" or violation of this child's rights was very wrong!!!

Omg

Seems to be something missing from the video and the hole story. There were witnesses who saw this kid take a swing at the officer and the guard. I didn't see the word special education writting on this kid any where. I did not hear not one staff member tell the officer he was special education. Usually when a kid is on a corrective action plan at school it means the kid has been in trouble before or had issues in the past. It doesnt mean disability. Baldereas is appsolutly correct kids should feel safe in school. Thats exactly why this kid shouldnt be at that school with all his issues. He needs to be in a detention center. He should get charged with aggrevated assult against a police officer. Did anyone drug test the kid? I wouldnt feel safe knowing my kids went to school with this kid. It seems like he has anger issues on top of substance abuse issues and he is only 15. And if he is selling in school thats another issue. Maybe he will learn he wants to act like an adult he should face the consequences like an adult. There is a reason the cops were called to begin with and not the mom. Obviously the kid was out of control even the guard couldnt control him. Where is the full video?

K Rino

Nah all kids should have the opportunity to an education that is the point of a behavior plan and the schools should of hired the professionals to accommodate his needs regardless of price. Now the school will even pay more for not doing so. You would not want your child to be excluded but to have the resources he or she deserves.

Lolwow

Wow so i dont think we saw the whole video, and what disability does the kid have, besides probably a learning one. He sure knows how to sell drugs at school, probably taught buy the mom, maybe this should be a learning experience for the kid and his family that not respecting elders can hurt sometimes but it wont we will probably be paying for that kid in prison anyway in the future. ( Editor's note: you are correct. We were sent three different clips from Barnes' lapel camera. It's not clear if the clips are edited pieces or Barnes was turning his camera on and off. We are trying to get the entire clip, unedited to post.)

(Edited by staff.)

K Rino

Well the kid and his mom will no longer need to slang drugs thanks to this krooked cop who cannot follow protocol.

Kelly

When I was a kid if I got in trouble at school I got in trouble at home too,Now parents don't think their little brats do anything wrong and baby them TOO MUCH

Don't be ignorant

You want to attack the mom (you don't know) to get your comment out there? Stick to your facebook or get friends to vent your ignorance to. What kind of person questions a child's disability AND tases a kid? You are in the same boat as the cop and the school so you should probably never post such a comment again until you have all the facts. Do you normally question people's disabilities, old age, gender, race or other demographics? These all fall into the same category. People that read the comments on this website assume people like you make up the entire valley and that is why outsiders assume everyone in Espanola are the same. Sadly your comment may represent our community and your lack of education and judgement is unnecessary. If your kid or family member was the one in this position your comment will not be justifying the actions of the "elder." The elders are who should have known better. A child's brain is not fully developed. Were you a saint as a child? i assume not as you are questioning a child's disability. Advice: Pick up a book before you ever comment on here again. Stop misrepresenting this community. Make a friend if you want to vent your assumptions. Bottom line: the tasing was unnecessary.

Rolinda

Every single adult present in the room should be ashamed of them selves. I hope none of you are at peace with your selves for sitting and watching this event occur.
Every single adult in the room should be charged with child neglect and abuse. Where is CYFD? Who investigated the schools for allowing this? The officer should be relieved of duty, for ever. The security guard fired. The teachers forbidden to EVER be allowed to work with another child.
There is no logical reason for any of the adults behaviors. I'm appalled that this...these are the adults leading our children and future. And they wonder why there are school shootings.
No mercy for any 1 of you sitting in that room.
Young man, I apologize to you for the way these poor excuses for leaders treated you. You did not deserve this.

itsjustme

And they wonder why there are school shootings.
You didn't really say this, did you? What kind of sick mind would ever justify mass killings of innocent people for any reason imaginable? WOW

K Rino

You obviously don’t know any person with special needs or a disability and never experienced the lack of resources or special services they require. The lack of services and the unfair treatment across the State of N.M. and mainly in Northern N.M. No school I have had my children in have no adequate staff that specializes in specific needs and our Governor can care less!!!

Kelly

OR MAYBE THE KIDS SHOULD BE PERMANENTLY KICKED OUT OF SCHOOL SO THE OTHER KIDS WHO ARE THERE TO LEARN WONT BE SUBJECTED TO HIS ILLEGAL ACTIVITY AND THE DISRUPTIONS THAT IT CAUSES

K Rino

Again the board should be advocates and getting funding to support the resources of children with disabilities. We should not be condemning them ever child deserves that right look up FAPE even IDEA. Go anywhere and you will see children, adults, etc. with disabilities always excluded. No resources. But you will only truly understand when you do have someone with a disability and you have to advocate for their protection as well. But obviously you want them segregated so only the perfect people can have an education.

ADHM

Completely and utterly disgusting of every ADULT present for this unfortunate event, that not one of them had the decency to handle this matter differently. You are dealing with CHILDREN, children who are going to be rude and disrespectful at some point and the first solution is to manhandle him and tase him...not only tase him but yell at him to "comply" when the poor thing already helpless in pain on the floor! Sick. There is no hope for our children in Espanola. Not even those that should be there to "protect" can offer that to them!!!

FancyA

The Sheriff’s Deputy should have watched the video before writing his report. Oh wait, the video isn't what really happen.

Same Ol Same Ol

“Statements collected by Barnes, and his own report, offer versions of events that deviate from the lapel footage.” Holy shamoly! And then a court-recognized professional witness on police policy and procedure publicly questions your professionalism (or lack thereof, really) and justification for tazing! Okay, so maybe worst case scenario here might be a settlement payout, if you’re lucky (there go our tax dollars again!). But then geez Louise, Deputy! The freakin’ NM AG suddenly knows your name and publicly states he’s opened a PROBE into your actions (I read that CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION, how about anyone else?) Jiminy Christmas! Are you buckin’ to snag a cell next to your ex-boss Tommy? I’d say it’s time to start saving your pennies, Deputy—you know, just in case. And, I don’t know, maybe…just maybe start getting used to again hearing the title of “Mister” instead of “Deputy” before your name? Not for nuthin’, Deputy, but YOUR approach (immediate walk-in-the-door demeanor) in the video dictated that boy’s actions. Any well- taught, well-experienced field cop knows it should have been the other way around. YOU heightened the chance that the situation would end violently, not him. If I can see that, any group of 12 reasonable persons in a Santa Fe jury box will be able to see it, too. One wonders if you weren’t a bit tired (which may have led to your lack of attention) that day in class at the academy when they were teaching how to defuse and resolve such situations. All kinds of wrong by you here, Deputy. All kinds of wrong. Good luck with that.

Don't be ignorant

There's countless officers in the Valley lacking the training and knowledge needed for these situations. Yet, they are being promoted for higher positions and being rewarded for mistreating the public innocent or not. They forget where our taxes go. I can't agree more with your post!

BLACKFOX38

Shame on all that allowed this to happen that day. This is daily life at EVHS , this just shows the world how sick that place is. Veronica Dean has no qualifications to be an assistant principal. She has done this before to other students she calls the police and criminalizes every situation. I did not see a serious threat until Barnes became hostile and made the situation worse and worse and oh ya worse. Jack you should be ashamed of yourself...PED please Espanola help fast!!!

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