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Man claims State Police officer roughed him up after arrest

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A Rio Rancho man claims a New Mexico State Police officer slammed his head against a wall, kicked him and twisted his fractured wrist while he was in a holding cell last year.

Ryan Cordova, 29, filed a suit against State Police officer Peter Romero for assault and battery, as well as for violating Cordova’s state and federal constitutional rights, stemming from a May 2019 DWI arrest on the Santa Fe Plaza.

A criminal complaint says Cordova crashed into another vehicle while going the wrong direction on the portion of East San Francisco Street that runs along the Plaza.

Cordova claims Romero battered him while Cordova was handcuffed to a rail in a holding cell at the State Police district office in Santa Fe after the arrest. The beating was caught on camera, the suit says.

“At various points in the video, Officer Romero can be seen shoving Plaintiff, grabbing his legs out from under him, kneeling on his head and neck, slamming his head into the wall, and kicking him,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says Cordova told Romero about his fractured wrist, but Romero still handcuffed him. The criminal complaint, however, says Romero asked Cordova if he was OK and Cordova responded that he was “OK and not injured.” The lawsuit doesn’t say if Cordova injured his wrist during the collision.

Romero then allegedly targeted the injury. “Officer Romero can be seen multiple times grabbing Plaintiff’s broken wrist, and bending, twisting and pulling it into various directions,” the suit says.

Romero’s actions caused Cordova bodily injury and mental anguish, entitling Cordova to punitive damages, the suit says.

Romero wrote in the criminal complaint that as he was speaking to Cordova after the crash, he could smell alcohol, and that Cordova had bloodshot and watery eyes. Cordova said he had about two drinks two hours before, so Romero had Cordova get out of the car and perform field sobriety tests.

Cordova performed poorly on the tests, the complaint says, and he was placed under arrest and transported to the district office, where Cordova underwent a 20-minute deprivation period.

Cordova then refused a chemical test, leading to an aggravated DWI charge. He was also charged with driving in the wrong direction on a one-way road.

The charges were dropped in October, because the police officer didn’t show up to the trial, court documents show.

Officer Dusty Francisco, a State Police spokesman, said he couldn’t comment on pending litigation. He also said he couldn’t comment on why Romero didn’t show up for the trial or if Romero is still employed by State Police. He cited exceptions in the state Inspection of Public Records Act for matters of opinion in personnel files as his reason.

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