Santa Fe County Sheriff Robert Garcia is looking into a July 12 incident in which his deputies forced a woman who was having a diabetic episode face-down onto the road pavement, handcuffed her and left her there for about a minute.
Deputies broke into the car and yanked her out, her legs slamming into the pavement, after she was unresponsive to demands that she open the door, one deputy’s dash-cam video shows. She had been in a minor traffic accident, and appears limp and offers no resistance as she’s cuffed and left on the roadway where she lies face-down without moving as deputies move away.
The sheriff said that even though deputies suspected the woman – Revina Garcia, 57, of Santa Fe, was intoxicated – it was “unacceptable” for them to leave her on the asphalt.
After about a minute, two of the deputies pick her up and apparently put her in a patrol car.
The high temperature for that day was 90 degrees. It was about 4:40 p.m. when the woman was cuffed and put on the pavement.There will be an internal investigation, Garcia said, and he wants to make sure his deputies are trained to identify people who could be suffering from a medical problem instead of being drunk.
In this case, the reporting officer acknowledged that Revina Garcia didn’t smell of alcohol once deputies got into her car.
“You have to keep your focus and an open mind that not every person involved in an accident like this is intoxicated,” the sheriff said. “It could be something else. We have to be aware of that daily.”
Revina Garcia, speaking through another family member, declined to speak with the Journal about the incident on Friday. But she told KOAT-TV earlier that she was feeling “lost” and didn’t know how to open the car door after the crash. She remembers someone “beating on the door and yelling.”
She told the station that her blood sugar was so low that she could have gone into a coma.
Revina Garcia was driving a 2013 Hyundai when she rear-ended a pickup truck at Paseo Rael and N.M. 599, causing bumper damage to the truck and more serious front-end damage to her Hyundai. The deputy suspected that the woman was intoxicated when he went to check on her, Sheriff Garcia said.
Sheriff Garcia said the woman was not responding and it appeared as though she was trying to accelerate her car, although that’s not obvious in deputies’ dash-cam videos. The deputy first on the scene of the crash repeatedly demands that she open the door and reports the car is still in gear.
This deputy called for backup and three more arrived. The first deputy tried to break a passenger side window to access the vehicle, with what appears on video to be a big police flashlight, but he wasn’t successful. Another deputy arrived and he was able to quickly break the driver-side window using a “window punch,” according to a sheriff’s office report.
A deputy reached in, opened the door, took the keys from the ignition and removed the woman’s seat belt. The videos show the deputies pulling her out, putting her face down and handcuffing her.
Sheriff Garcia said he was concerned that of the four deputies on the scene, none picked her up from the roadway at first. He said he’s trying to find out how hot it was.
“I would think that one of them had plenty of assistance to where they could have sat her up and placed her in a cruiser rather than that,” Sheriff Garcia said. “That’s unacceptable even if it was a drunk driver.”
The sheriff said he thinks the woman mumbled that she was a diabetic when she was in a patrol car later. The sheriff also said she had an insulin pump and that a medical unit responded to the call. The sheriff’s office incident report states that it was determined after a medic showed up that Revina Garcia was “suffering from a diabetic emergency.”
The sheriff said he hopes to meet with her family soon.
He also said that although he’s reviewing the case, none of the deputies has been placed on administrative leave.
He declined to release their names.
But the accident report released by the sheriff’s office is by Lt. Joseph McLaughlin Jr.