SANTA FE — A jail guard who was tased in the groin by a Rio Arriba County deputy in June has filed a lawsuit against the deputy, Sheriff James Lujan and the county’s governing body, alleging injuries and that the guard was targeted for the Taser blast specifically because he’s a man.
The suit also alleges the sheriff has created a workplace culture of “toxic masculinity.”
It’s the second lawsuit filed against Lujan this year over a tasing incident. Also, two tort claim notices have been filed with the county to signal future litigation alleging harassment by Lujan and his deputies.
Deputy Leon Gallegos was put on paid leave after tasing Rio Arriba County jail guard Timothy Gallegos, no relation, in the groin on June 3 in the Tierra Amarilla jail’s sally port. The sheriff’s office maintained that the tasing was accidental,
Surveillance camera footage of the incident shows Deputy Gallegos tasing corrections officer Gallegos without hesitation just as the guard walks up to the deputy’s patrol car.
The suit filed on behalf of Timothy Gallegos this week against the sheriff, Deputy Gallegos and the Rio Arriba County Commission says the tasing was purposeful and claims Deputy Gallegos was not properly trained to use the department’s new X2 tasers. The manual for use of the tasers specifies that the groin is a “no-strike zone,” the suit says.
“No objectively reasonable officer confronting a situation where there is absolutely no need for force would have deployed the Taser X2 in so reckless a manner,” the suit maintains. The jail guard has suffered injury and his sexual intimacy with his female partner has been damaged, according to the suit.
The lawsuit also accuses Deputy Gallegos of sexually harassing the jail guard because the guard was specifically targeted for tasing in the groin as a man .
“But for his sex, male, Deputy Gallegos would not have pointed his taser at the male genitalia of (the guard) and deployed it into his groin area,” the suit says.
The lawsuit also says, “Defendant Sheriff Lujan has created a work environment ripe for male-on-male sexual harassment by cultivating a culture of toxic masculinity between himself and county employees.”
The suit filed by the Kennedy Kennedy and Ives law firm from Albuquerque seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. Sheriff’s office spokesman Randy Sanches wouldn’t say Thursday if Deputy Gallegos is still employed with the office. The county attorney couldn’t be reached for comment.
A previous lawsuit was filed against Lujan and former Deputy Jeremy Barnes for Barnes tasing a 15-year-old special needs student at Española Valley High School in May. Barnes also faces felony charges of child abuse and false imprisonment.
Also, a tort claim notice was filed with Rio Arriba County after a Chama man claimed Lujan harassed him because he was flying a Mexican flag on his truck on the Fourth of July. Another was filed alleging that Lujan retaliated against a former Rio Grande Sun reporter because of her reporting, including on the Barnes tasing incident.