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Suit: Deputy on phone when woman was killed

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A wrongful death lawsuit alleges a Sandoval County deputy was talking on the phone and typing on a computer when he backed over and killed a Placitas woman on a Thursday afternoon in 2017.

An amended complaint filed in state District Court in Sandoval County last week details allegations surrounding the Sept. 28, 2017, collision on Trails Road West that left Linda Baragiola dead.

Deputy Rudy Fields had been dispatched to a home on that street to investigate an alarm, and the homeowner had asked her neighbor Baragiola to walk over and check on her dogs, the suit alleges. While he was there, Fields received a non-emergency dispatch call at a nearby address and he got into his truck and drove, in reverse, to tell a fellow officer where he was going.

He had driven about 50 feet when he hit Baragiola and knocked her over. He continued driving, running over her head, according to the lawsuit.

“He could have saved her if he would have just stopped when he first hit her,” attorney Cristy Carbon-Gaul said in an interview Monday.

Fields, 68, died in a local hospital of extreme trauma to her head.

Moments after hitting Baragiola, Fields said, “I was on the phone. Dispatch was talking to me. I was trying to put the address in,” according to the suit.

But in his Oct. 3, 2017, state police interview, “after having had days to discuss what happened with his attorney and days to contemplate his excuse for his actions,” Fields said he had been looking back when he hit Baragiola, the lawsuit states.

“According to Fields’ own admissions, he was looking directly at Linda as he drove his police vehicle into her and over her head,” the lawsuit said.

Police initially reported that Baragiola might have been talking on the phone when she was hit, but the lawsuit says that assertion is “demonstrably false,” based on her phone records. That assertion, the lawsuit says, was an attempt to “shield a colleague from responsibility and to blame the victim for being run over by defendant Fields.”

Fields’ attorney could not be reached for comment and the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Baragiola’s half-sister is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, and attorney fees.