Former Albuquerque police officer Levi Chavez wants a state District Court judge to dismiss a civil wrongful death lawsuit that claims he “caused the shooting death” of his wife, Tera Chavez, in 2007 on the grounds that the city of Albuquerque “should never have been released from its duty to defend him as one of its employees.”
And in the event that Judge Ted Baca of the Second Judicial District does not dismiss the claims brought by Tera Chavez’s family, Levi Chavez wants the city to pay for his defense.
Those were the bottom-line demands from the 32-year-old former cop, as described in a court document he filed Friday.
Last month, a Sandoval County jury found Levi Chavez not guilty of murder and evidence tampering after a six-week trial that drew national attention.
Prosecutors had contended that Levi Chavez shot his wife once in the mouth with his APD-issued Glock 9 mm pistol inside the couple’s home near Los Lunas and tried to make her death look like a suicide.
The not-guilty verdict left the civil lawsuit, which was filed in 2008, as Levi Chavez’s final hurdle, although he didn’t seem concerned about it as he walked away from the Sandoval County courthouse surrounded by family members and reporters on July 16.
“Bring the civil case on,” he said at the time.
His tone has changed.
In his response to the civil suit, which he also filed Friday, Levi Chavez reiterated that he will be representing himself.
“Due to defendant’s lack of legal training and the fact that he is financially destitute … necessary investigative services, expert witnesses, and other costs of litigation, any award of money damages against defendant would be a completely frivolous exercise and malicious effort to prevent defendant from becoming financially able to support his children, and the grandchildren of the plaintiffs,” he wrote.
In the response, Levi Chavez denied he in any way caused Tera Chavez’s death. However, citing a 2000 state Supreme Court ruling, Chavez raised the possibility that the city may still be on the hook for representing him because it was an APD-owned gun that killed Tera.
“If a fact finder were to be tricked into believing that the plaintiff’s theories are true, the fact finder would determine that defendant Levi Chavez acted within the scope of his duties and employment,” he wrote in the response.
Deputy City Attorney Kathy Levy pointed to an unopposed order singed in 2011 by Baca, herself and Levi Chavez’s city-appointed attorney that approved a $230,000 settlement between the city and Tera Chavez’s family.
Levy said in a statement to the Journal that Chavez’s complaint alleging the city had a duty to defend him “was filed in bad faith and with the full knowledge that he has no claims against the city.”
“Mr. Chavez, through his attorney’s signature on the unopposed order, approved that settlement,” her statement said.