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Law firm seeking training materials on pepperball guns

SANTA FE, N.M. — A law firm that previously sued Bernalillo County for fatally wounding an elderly man with a less-lethal pepperball gun is now considering a case against the manufacturer of the weapon.

Last week, a complaint to enforce the Inspection of Public Records Act was filed against the state Department of Public Safety. The complaint, filed in state District Court in Santa Fe, is seeking damages and the release of all pepperball training materials, and correspondence between the company that provided the pepperball guns and DPS, according to the complaint.

Pepperball weapons are less-lethal guns that shoot a ball filed with a stinging chemical at a suspect. Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office shot Fidencio Duran, 88, dozens of times with the guns when he was found wandering distraught in the South Valley in September 2015. Duran died a month later and his death was ruled a homicide, according to a lawsuit brought against the county by Duran’s family.

The county settled that case last year. Shannon Kennedy, an attorney for the family, said the settlement prohibited the plaintiffs from disclosing the amount. The county didn’t respond to a records request or a comment about the settlement on Monday.

PepperBall is a registered trademark of United Tactical Systems LLC, the manufacturer, according to the PepperBall website.

Kennedy said that the complaint against DPS to enforce IPRA is an attempt to find out how widespread the weapons are in New Mexico and what type of training is provided to law enforcement agencies that use them. She said the information may be used in a future products liability case against the maker of the weapon.

“They know it’s dangerous to use (the weapons) on the elderly, pregnant and children,” Kennedy said. “We think that training should be mandatory.”