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The family of a Deming man fatally shot by police in February is suing four law enforcement agencies alleging the killing was “reckless” and preventable.
The lawsuit stems from the Feb. 3 shooting death of Gilbert Valencia, 29, in a desert area outside Deming.
The suit alleges that Valencia was on his knees and following commands when officers opened fire with assault-style weapons.
A lapel camera video of the incident provided by the family’s attorneys shows Valencia on his knees with his hands in the air surrounded by armed officers shouting commands. Several of the officers called Valencia by his first name.
After officers ordered him to lie on his stomach, Valencia appeared to pick up a long, dark-colored object from the ground followed by the sound of numerous gunshots. He then fell on his back and appeared seriously injured.
Valencia is described in the suit as “a non-threatening, mentally ill young man who in the past had been known to carry toy guns and rifles.”
The family’s attorney, Larissa Lozano, said she didn’t know if Valencia was carrying a toy gun at the time, but there is no evidence he was armed.
“What he had was not an actual weapon,” Lozano said. “He wasn’t pointing anything at the officers. He was not acting in an aggressive manner. In fact, he was on his knees.”
Five Deming police officers named as defendants fired more than 20 rounds at Valencia during the encounter, the suit alleges.
It also identifies three other Deming officers and John Does 1-9 – officers employed by several agencies – who participated in the events surrounding Valencia’s death.
The Deming Police Department, Luna County Sheriff’s Office, New Mexico State Police and the New Mexico Department of Public Safety also are named as defendants.
Deming police did not respond this week to phone messages requesting comment. Spokesmen for the other three agencies said they would not comment on pending litigation.
The incident began when a motorist on Interstate 10 reported that she saw a man with a gun beside the roadway, the suit said.
Officers with four agencies armed with assault rifles and tactical gear responded to the report, it said.
The suit alleges senior officers failed to initiate a tactical plan and “simply allowed a barrage of officers to rush toward the area” where Valencia was observed. The suit seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages and costs.