County Settles Tort Claim For $4,000

Los Alamos Daily Post

A suit filed against the Los Alamos County Council, Police Chief Dino Sgambellone, Ofc. David Bradshaw and Ofc. Joseph Ortega seeking damages for assault, battery and false imprisonment under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act has been dismissed and the County has agreed to pay Andrew Abeyta $4,000 in settlement.

Under the terms of the agreement, which was executed in September, Abeyta will pay all his own attorney’s costs and the County will not admit to any fault or wrongdoing.

The alleged incident occurred Dec. 24, 2013 while Abeyta was incarcerated at the Los Alamos Detention Center. The complaint stated Bradshaw and Ortega were on duty and that they removed him from his regular cell to search it for drugs or other contraband. They allegedly placed Abeyta in a single cell located in the booking area. When they returned to the cell, they reportedly told Abeyta nothing was found pursuant to their search and Bradshaw allegedly told Abeyta he was going to be strip-searched.

While Abeyta was removing his clothing, he claimed Bradshaw and Ortega were outside the door and another guard was near the booking area but was not talking to or generally interacting with him. Abeyta said he exited the cell, fully unclothed, and presented himself to Bradshaw and Ortega.

Abeyta claimed Bradshaw made a comment to him and then punched him in the face. Almost immediately afterward, he alleged Bradshaw sprayed mace or some similar chemical in his face. Abeyta said he felt his eyes, nose and mouth burn from the mace. Then he said he was hit by a baton by Bradshaw or Ortega who forced his hands behind his back and cuffed him.

Abeyta alleged Bradshaw continued to spray his body with mace, waited a couple of minutes and continued to spray mace lower and lower until his entire body was covered with mace. Abeyta said he could hear a loud click when the mace was dispensed and that while he was suffering from the effects of the mace, Bradshaw or Ortega tackled him from the side and brought him to the ground.

Abeyta said Bradshaw told Ortega to dress him and that Ortega had difficulty getting to him because he was coughing from the cloud of mace surrounding him. He said Ortega slipped his pants onto him and Bradshaw and Ortega walked him to the sally port area. Abeyta said he begged the two officers to help him to wipe his eyes. He said either Bradshaw or Ortega told him he could wait. He said he dropped down on one knee and attempted to wipe his eyes on his bent knee.

Abeyta alleged the actions of Bradshaw and Ortega were malicious, willful, reckless and in bad faith. He said members of the Los Alamos Fire Department arrived and began administering first aid. Eventually, he said, he was transported to Los Alamos Medical Center by LAPD.

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