New Mexico Couple Awarded $1.6 Million in Police Abuse Case
After they responded to a neighborhood dispute, prompting an officer to grab her arm, twist it behind her back and slam her to the ground, leaving her with a fractured arm as he planted his knee on her back.
When the woman lifted her head to console her four-year-old son who began crying, the Las Cruces police officer slammed her face on a bed of rocks, leaving her with a broken nose and a bruised and bloodied face.
When her husband became alarmed, thinking his wife was choking on her own blood, he walked up to help her, but he was also arrested.
Las Cruces police officer Isaiah Baker then turned to a female officer and bragged about his deeds, telling her that Jillian Beck “got thrown” and ended up with a “face full of rocks.”
“Cool,” the female officer responded, according to an audio clip that was heard during a civil trial last week.
After a five-day trial and three-hour deliberation, a jury awarded the couple $1.6 million.
The federal jury ruled that Las Cruces police officers Isaiah Baker and Joseph Campa used unreasonably excessive force and violated the couples Fourth Amendment right.
The incident took place in January 2013 after Jillian Beck called police to report a disturbance with neighbors around 10 p.m., according to the Las Cruces Sun-News.
Beck’s neighbors were blowing loud air horns at dogs that wouldn’t stop barking. In retaliation, Beck threw salmon and onions on her neighbor’s vehicle along with a mean note. Officers arrived on scene and warned Beck to stop. Then they left.
Angered, her neighbors then turned around and called police back to the scene around midnight proclaiming that the Becks left another threatening note at their door.
Officers Baker, Campa and Manuel Chavez responded to the scene and questioned Jillian Beck. Frustrated, Beck began to walk away from the officers. It was then that Baker grabbed her arm, twisted it behind her back and slammed her to the ground, fracturing her arm.
Handcuffed and laying face down on the ground, Beck lifted up her head to comfort her crying four-year-old son and to ask her neighbor to remove him from the scene.
But Baker saw that as a threat and slammed Beck’s head onto the ground into a bed of rocks, breaking her nose and leaving her face bruised and bloodied.
Alarmed that his wife was choking on her own blood, Andrew Beck, an active-duty Air Force airmen, ran to the safety of his wife only to be stopped and handcuffed by Campa.
Jillian Beck was arrested and charged with battery on a peace officer, resisting, evading and obstructing an officer and disorderly conduct. Her husband was charged with resisting, evading, and obstructing an officer. Four of five Jillian Beck’s charges were dropped and she pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct.
All of Andrew Beck’s charges were dismissed.
“The jury sent a clear message that this type of behavior towards civilians will not be tolerated in our community,” said Margaret Strickland, the attorney who represented the Becks.
The jury contended that the officers were in violation of the Fourth Amendment when they detained and arrested the Becks.
The jury awarded Andrew Beck $100,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 to his wife. The jury also awarded $1 million in punitive damages to Jillian Beck “based on Officer Baker’s willful, malicious, wanton and reckless conduct,” their attorney said.
The officers never faced criminal charges involving this incident.
New Mexico is hotbed for police lawsuits
New Mexico has had it’s share of lawsuits in recent years. In fact, in 2016 a New Mexico police department was ordered to pay $3 million to a woman who was raped by a HIV positive officer.
In another case, an officer at a New Mexico police department sued the police chief over public records and unfair treatment.
Another lawsuit was filed by the ACLU and several media outlets over a New Mexico police department failing to release camera footage of a shooting.