ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Metropolitan Detention Center guard Eric Allen, who has been on paid leave for nearly two years, has been indicted on battery charges in connection with a 2015 incident in which he’s alleged to have told guards to “hurt” an inmate.
The indictment on a charge of aggravated battery with great bodily harm was filed Tuesday.
The incident that led to the charge happened in December 2015 against Joe Ray Barela, a state prison inmate who was at the jail for a court hearing.
Allen ordered prison guards to “hurt” Barela, 39 at the time, who corrections officers said was being belligerent, according to county documents obtained by the Journal.
The incident happened in front of medical staffers who were trying to treat Barela in the jail’s infirmary.
Those staffers later described it as “torture” and said they were in tears, according to their subsequent interviews with Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office deputies and a private investigator hired by the county, according to county documents obtained by the Journal.
The staff told investigators that they think officers used excessive force on Barela and that the incident fueled tension between medical staff and corrections officers inside the jail, according to the documents.
The Journal reported last month that county officials had sent Allen a letter notifying him of the county’s intent to discipline Allen by terminating his employment, citing a “pattern of excessive force and inappropriate conduct.” Jail spokeswoman Candace Hopkins said the disciplinary process is still pending and Allen remains on paid administrative leave. He has been on leave since early 2016.
“Where evidence of abuse and misconduct by public officials supports prosecution, I will take the necessary steps to hold those officials accountable,” District Attorney Raúl Torrez said.
Michael Patrick, a spokesman for the district attorney, said Allen will receive a summons ordering him to appear in court for his arraignment. It wasn’t clear Tuesday when that court hearing will be.
No other court documents detailing the charges against Allen have been filed.
Shane Youtz, one of Allen’s attorneys, declined to comment Tuesday.
The Barela case was one of two incidents involving Allen that led to a criminal investigation.
He also came under fire when a video surfaced of him using force against a small female inmate in September 2015.
In that case, Susie Chavez was shocked with a stun gun, held in a wrist lock and hit with pepper spray because she wouldn’t stop crying.
Allen, one of two supervisors on scene, recorded the incident with an on-body camera, which showed Chavez shrieking in pain as jail guards used force against her.
A detective with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office later concluded application of force by Allen and Lt. Mary Shaw was done in a rude and insolent manner.