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Former Sheriff’s Office sergeant heads to trial

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There was no mistaking former Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. David Priemazon’s defense as his trial on a felony count of aggravated battery began Wednesday.

BCSO Sgt. David Priemazon, left, confers with his attorney Sam Bregman before a hearing in Metro Court in November. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

“The evidence is going to show that David Priemazon did not kick Chris Lucero in the head,” defense lawyer Sam Bregman said in his opening statement. “Let me be clear. He did not kick Mr. Lucero in the head.”

Prosecutors say that in March 2018, Lucero led deputies on a chase through the South Valley and onto Coors SW before deputy Andrew Limon forced him to stop by crashing into his SUV, sending the vehicle rolling. Lucero climbed out of the wreckage and ran, but testimony indicated deputies caught up to him after he tripped and fell face first onto the pavement. As he lay facedown on the ground, five deputies crowded around him and tried to pry his hands from beneath his body and into cuffs, using “softening techniques.”

“Five deputies are pinning Lucero down; they’re seconds from getting his hands into cuffs,” prosecutor Nora Wilson said. “All the work is nearly done. Defendant decides to get involved, but he doesn’t get on his knees to try to help get Lucero’s arms into cuffs.”

Instead, Wilson said, Priemazon swore at Lucero and kicked him twice in the face.

Lucero, who is expected to testify, suffered an eye socket fracture, and he was criminally charged in the case. Ultimately, he pleaded no contest to aggravated assault on a peace officer and aggravated fleeing.

But Wilson said Priemazon’s actions crossed a line.

“Ladies and gentlemen, law enforcement is not an easy job,” Wilson said. “We, as a society, ask a lot of them; we also give them a lot of power in order to keep us safe. But there are limits to that power.”

In his own opening statement, Bregman called the state’s account a “fantasy.” And he said the witnesses who would take the stand as the trial unfolds would offer inconsistent stories.

Bregman questioned whether Lucero suffered his eye injury when the SUV rolled. He maintained that his client only kicked Lucero in the shoulder. He said the other deputies on the scene punched and hit Lucero dozens of times as they tried to cuff him. Limon kneed him, causing broken ribs.

It was Limon who reported Priemazon’s behavior, triggering an internal investigation. Bregman said his client was “no fan” of Sheriff Manuel Gonzales, who happens to be Limon’s uncle. He said Priemazon had made those views clear at a union meeting that took place two months after the Lucero arrest.

“The very next morning, the sheriff’s department refers the case to the State Police for criminal prosecution,” Bregman said. “Two months later? The very next morning?”

Priemazon had been placed on administrative leave, and he retired from the Sheriff’s Office in January, according to a BCSO spokeswoman.

Online court records show his trial before state District Judge Daniel Gallegos could stretch into next week.

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