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County pays $130,000 in wrongful death suit

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The family of a man shot and killed by a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputy in July 2017 received $130,000 from their lawsuit against the county.

Miguel Gonzales, 28, was shot in the backyard of the house where his three children and his ex-wife were sleeping. The lawsuit states he was shot in the back multiple times.

The incident started when deputies spotted Gonzales in a red Chevrolet Monte Carlo at a carwash near Coors and Old Coors SW around 1:30 a.m. on July 4. The Monte Carlo had a stolen license plate and when deputies tried to contact Gonzales he sped away.

Deputy Charles Coggins gave chase.

In a neighborhood about a mile away Gonzales got out of his car and ran on foot into the backyard of his family’s house. That’s where Coggins shot him.

The shooting was the first of three by Coggins over the next four months.

In Gonzales’s case, the mother of his children – Joanna Rodriguez – and his own mother – Concepcion Gonzales – filed lawsuits against Coggins, Bernalillo County and BCSO sheriff Manuel Gonzales in state court claiming “loss of consortium based on the unjustified killing.” The suit settled in late March.

The majority of the $130,000 the family received will be distributed among Gonzales’s three children in the early 2030s.

Gonzales’s family also filed a federal lawsuit alleging Coggins and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s office violated his civil rights due to excessive use of force. According to the lawsuit, although a gun was found near Gonzales, it was in a holster.

“Regardless, decedent could not have been threatening the Defendants with a firearm at the time that they shot and killed him, as his back was turned to the Defendants, based on the trajectories of all bullet wounds as documented in the aforementioned autopsy report and the only firearm discovered was holstered,” the suit states.

That suit is pending.

Luis Robles, the county’s attorney, said it made sense for his clients to settle the loss of consortium suit, but he believes the claims of excessive use of force will be dismissed.

“In the federal court it is my belief that the US District Court will vindicate deputy Coggins’s use of deadly force against Miguel Gonzales,” Robles said.

Gene Chavez, the attorney representing Gonzales’s family, did not respond to requests for comment.