Lawsuit: Drug search included colonoscopy - Albuquerque Journal

Lawsuit: Drug search included colonoscopy

Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

A Lordsburg man has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque alleging that what started as a routine traffic stop ended with him being detained for 15 hours by police and subjected to eight invasive body searches, including a colonoscopy, in a futile attempt to find drugs.

The plaintiff, David W. Eckert, 54, alleges that Deming police officers and Hidalgo County sheriff’s deputies, using an invalid and expired warrant, took Eckert to the Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City where he was subjected to two digital rectal exams; two X-rays, one of them to his chest area; three enemas, after which a hospital nurse and a police officer witnessed each of his bowel movements and examined his stools; and a forced sedation and colonoscopy.

Eckert protested each medical procedure, insisted he was not hiding drugs, and no drugs were found in his body at the conclusion of any of the screenings.

In addition, Gila Regional Medical Center billed Eckert for the law enforcement requested procedures – about $6,000 according to his attorney, Shannon Kennedy.

“They actually sent it to collections,” she said.

“This is very serious for our client, who is mortified and lives in constant fear of retaliation. The warrant did authorize an anal cavity search, but a colonscopy is far beyond that, not to mention that it took place at 1 a.m., long after the warrant’s 10 p.m. expiration time.”

Further, she said, the warrant was issued in Luna County, but when an emergency room doctor at Mimbres Memorial Hospital in Deming refused to conduct the cavity search on ethical grounds, “the police drove him an hour away to the Gila hospital of horrors, which is in Grant County,” Kennedy said.

While the federal lawsuit states “a search warrant signed by the Luna Magistrate Judge in the Deming Court is not enforceable in Grant County,” both of those counties as well as Hidalgo are part of the 6th Judicial District, said District Attorney Francesca Martinez-Estevez.

“I don’t think it’s fatal to the search warrant, but I’d rather not comment on the legality of a search warrant that I haven’t reviewed,” she said.

Martinez-Estevez said she was unaware of the specifics of the Eckert case. The incident occurred on her first day as the district attorney, and because officers never criminally charged Eckert, no case was brought to her for review.

Named as defendants are the city of Deming and Deming police officers Bobby Orosco, Robert Chavez and an officer identified only as Hernandez; Hidalgo County and Hidalgo County Sheriff’s deputies David Arredondo, Robert Rodriguez and Patrick Green; Assistant District Attorney Daniel Dougherty, formerly of the 6th Judicial District; Gila Regional Medical Center and doctors Robert Wilcox and Okay H. Odocha.

None of the named law enforcement organizations or the Gila Regional Medical Center returned phone calls to the Journal. Ho wever, attorney Blaine Mynatt, of the Holt Mynatt Martinez law firm in Las Cruces, which represents the Hidalgo County defendants, said “I am aware of the lawsuit and as far as our firm’s policy, we don’t comment on pending litigation.”

The incident that led to the lawsuit occurred about 2 p.m. on Jan. 2, as Eckert was leaving the Walmart parking lot in Deming and failed to come to a complete halt at a stop sign. Deming Police officer Chavez had him exit the vehicle and patted him down “without reasonable suspicion,” the lawsuit claims.

According to the court document and Kennedy, Chavez apparently thought Eckert was standing in an erect posture, keeping his legs together, as if he were “clenching his buttocks.” A narcotics sniffing dog was brought to the scene and alerted to the driver’s seat of Eckert’s car.

Chavez was told by officer Orosco and deputy Arredondo that Eckert was known in Hidalgo County “to insert” drugs into his body, according to the suit, which adds that the information is false.

Eckert had been stopped in Hidalgo County the previous September for a cracked windshield. Drugs were suspected but not found and Eckert was not charged, the lawsuit says.

Though he was not under arrest during the January incident, Eckert was placed in handcuffs and taken to the Deming Police Department.

Meanwhile, officers obtained a warrant to search Eckert’s car and his body, including his anal cavity.

When transferred to the emergency room at Mimbres Memorial Hospital, the doctor refused to conduct the cavity search on ethical principles, so officers drove Eckert to Gila Regional Medical Center in another county, according to the suit.

The federal lawsuit, originally filed in August, asks for nonspecified actual and compensatory damages, punitive damages, “injunctive relief” to protect Eckert and his family from “ongoing harassment and intimidation of defendants,” and attorney fees and litigation expenses.

Kennedy said attorneys representing the defendants have already responded to the complaint “and did not dispute any of the facts.” Consequently, “we filed a motion for summary judgment in just the last couple of days.”

Home » News » Albuquerque News » Lawsuit: Drug search included colonoscopy

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

taboola desktop

Council-approved budget would up spending by 20%
ABQnews Seeker
Plan includes pay increase for city ... Plan includes pay increase for city workers, rental support
Suspect dies over weekend in county jail
ABQnews Seeker
Woman was accused of stabbing boyfriend ... Woman was accused of stabbing boyfriend to death
Fifth suspect arrested in 2021 fatal shooting at West ...
ABQnews Seeker
Ajole Guzman, 20, arrested at a ... Ajole Guzman, 20, arrested at a family member's home in ABQ on Monday
Albuquerque issues health alert for wildfire smoke
ABQnews Seeker
The Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Program ... The Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Program issued a health alert on Monday afternoon because of wildfire smoke. People with respiratory conditions in the Albuquerque ...
Additional floors will allow for UNMH's future expansion
ABQnews Seeker
New tower will house updated surgical ... New tower will house updated surgical rooms
Stage set for the return of Summerfest
ABQnews Seeker
Summerfest and Freedom 4th are back. ... Summerfest and Freedom 4th are back. ...
Police investigating deaths in separate overnight incidents
ABQnews Seeker
Two people are dead following separate ... Two people are dead following separate incidents overnight in Albuquerque, according to the Albuquerque Police Department. One person was found dead after shooting was ...
City Council vote on budget set for Monday
ABQnews Seeker
City's acting CAO notes 'some minor ... City's acting CAO notes 'some minor tweaks' are needed
Hundreds in ABQ march for abortion rights
ABQnews Seeker
With strong voice and signage, hundreds ... With strong voice and signage, hundreds took to Albuquerque’s streets in support of abortion rights Saturday morning — part of the Bans Off Our ...