Rio Arriba deputy sues Taos County Sheriff's Office
Española City Police Chief (left) and the Rio Arriba County Undersheriff (middle) confront each other in May, 2020 during the arrest of Rio Arriba Sheriff James Lujan.

A former Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s deputy is suing the City of Española’s Police Department and the Taos County Sheriff’s Office after the two law enforcement agencies executed a search warrant with the use of the Taos County Special Response Team (SRT) last year.

The suit, filed by deputy William Fresquez, claims the two agencies' response was excessive when executing the warrant to retrieve former Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan’s iPhone.

The scene on May 20, 2020 was tense as Española Police and Taos County Sheriff’s deputies met Rio Arriba County deputies with guns drawn to claim possession of the phone. The incident was part of the arrest of Sheriff Lujan for several criminal charges.

Rio Arriba County Undersheriff Martin Trujillo was subsequently arrested after he was accused of ordering his deputies back to the office and telling them to draw guns on other law enforcement agencies during the arrest.

According to the criminal complaint, Fresquez claimed he suffered “serious aggravation of a pre-existing emotional injury that necessitated treatment” as a result of the arrest. He claims that at least four snipers were standing by as Rio Arriba deputies returned to their headquarters.

In a statement from Taos County attorney Randy Autio, he said the allegations made against the Taos County Sheriff’s Office “are very unfortunate.”

“Taos County Sheriff’s Department employees acted in accordance with law in supporting the Espanola Police Department in the complex case Española has against the Rio Arriba County Sheriff Lujan. We will work with New Mexico Counties to defend against these allegations and work to resolve the case and support the best interests of the County,” he said.

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said he could not comment much due to the pending litigation but did call the lawsuit “frivolous.” He said he was proud of the way his staff handled the situation and for “not doing anything wrong.”

The lawsuit was filed in the 6th Judicial Court on Oct. 5. The case is being presided over by Judge Bryan Biedscheid. As of Oct. 19, summons had been served to the Española Police Department and the Taos County Board of Commissioners.

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