Former Rio Arriba deputy files lawsuit, claims authorities put his life in danger

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ESPAÑOLA, N.M. – A former Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Deputy has filed a lawsuit against the City of Española and Taos County, claiming police and deputies put his life in danger when they raided the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office last year.

In the lawsuit filed yesterday by William Fresquez, he claims he was, "placed in the crosshairs of sniper rifles by defendants’ law enforcement officers and put in immediate fear for his safety and his life."

"I think when he saw it, it blew his mind because he’d been a police officer 23 years and you never expect that you’re going to be placed in fear of your life by a fellow police officer," said Richard Rosenstock, the attorney representing Fresquez.

It happened in May last year when Española Police, assisted by Taos County Sheriff’s deputies, arrested Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan outside the sheriff’s office in Española.

At the time, Española Police told KOB 4 the Taos County Sheriff’s deputies were assisting them in serving a search warrant for an additional phone belonging to Sheriff Lujan as part of an investigation into allegations he interfered with criminal investigations.

"It looked like Fallujah,” said Rosenstock. “Inside the building, it looked like the Marines going into a home in Fallujah. The dogs barking, they’re coming in with their long rifles, gunfire, gun smoke. It was ludicrous, ludicrous."

According to the lawsuit, Fresquez was on duty when he was called back to the sheriff’s office by the undersheriff as the raid went down. Fresquz said he was met by a SWAT team pointing their rifles at him.

The lawsuit states, “Fresquez suffered and continues to suffer severe serious humiliation, embarrassment, fear and anxiety, which continues to this date,” and caused him to, “suffer a severe aggravation of pre-existing emotional issues."

"He underwent counseling for quite a while," said Rosenstock.

The lawsuit is seeking damages for medical bills, pain and suffering.

Nancy Long, an attorney for the City of Española sent KOB 4 the following statement in an email:

"The statements regarding the lawsuit made by Española Deputy Chief of Police and found in the Santa Fe New Mexican today, remain valid:

The decision to use a SWAT team to execute the warrant was a result of Sheriff Lujan and Undersheriff Trujillo’s previously unpredictable and noncompliant behavior. Rio Arriba County Undersheriff Trujillo is the one to blame for putting Fresquez in the middle of the melee. It was the undersheriff who called all the deputies back that created this situation. Had he not called them back, this situation would not have been created outside of serving the warrant."

The City of Española will not comment further on this pending litigation except to reiterate our intent to vigorously defend the lawsuit.

An attorney for Taos County responded to the lawsuit with this statement:

"We have not been served with the complaint at this time. We will review it and forward it to our claims representative for defense and handle appropriately."