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Lawsuit filed against Curry County Detention Center

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Curry County is awaiting a federal judge’s decision on a flurry of demands recently filed by lawyers from both sides in a lawsuit alleging a Clovis woman arrested for jaywalking was illegally shot several times with a Taser at the jail.

The lawsuit was filed in January by Portales attorney Eric Dixon on behalf of his client, Petra Youngquist.

Younquist, 25, is seeking an unspecified amount of money in damages, according to records at U.S. District Court in Albuquerque.

Youngquist was arrested in July 2014 on misdemeanor charges of jaywalking, resisting arrest and assault, the latter charge resulting from her alleged attempts to kick the arresting Clovis police officer.

Within 15 minutes of her arrival at the jail, Youngquist, 25, was shot multiple times with an electronic Taser during a strip search in violation of the county’s own policies, the lawsuit charges.

Youngquist also accused the two detention officers responsible for the alleged attack with lying to cover it up. Both claimed in separate reports that Youngquist was resisting. A subsequent internal investigation determined a video of the attack “does not correlate with the statements given by the officers.”

The case was referred to District Attorney Andrea Reeb, who “found no criminal wrongdoing by the detention staff,” according to Sheriff Wesley Waller.

County Manager Lance Pyle said Wednesday the county has asked the lawsuit be dismissed, adding he wouldn’t comment further because it is a pending lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims Youngquist’s illegal tasing is part of a pattern of abuse against Hispanic inmates at the jail.

Youngquist is Hispanic. Those charges are in addition to claims county officials violated Youngquist’s civil rights and subjected her to cruel and unusual punishment.

Youngquist’s lawsuit charges the county “has a history of failing to investigate, charge, and prosecute white citizens who harmed individuals from the Hispanic community with crimes and incarcerating Hispanics at a greater percentile than their share of the over-all population… A plausible inference to be drawn is that actions taken against plaintiff (Younquist) by all … were intended and motivated by the Plaintiff’s race, color, and/or ethnicity.”

Lawyers representing the county have asked the case be dismissed, claiming qualified immunity. The judge assigned to the case has yet to issue an order.

Dixon wasn’t available for comment on Wednesday, but in other lawsuits against the county he has included similar allegations of minority rights being ignored or abused at the jail.

A wrongful discharge lawsuit filed by former jail Administrator Gerry Billy claimed one of the reasons county commissioners fired him was because he repeatedly complained that more than 60 percent of the inmate population was Hispanic.

Billy’s lawsuit was dismissed in October. Dixon then filed another lawsuit for Billy, claiming he was fired by the county in violation of the state Whistleblower Protection Act. The case is still pending in 9th Judicial District Court.


©2015 the Clovis News Journal (Clovis, N.M.)

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