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Colorado deputies fired over tasing grandfather 35 times: "the most clear cut case of police negligence, brutality and abuse"

Colorado deputies fired over tasing handcuffed grandfather 35 times
Colorado deputies fired over tasing handcuffed grandfather 35 times 00:35

Two Las Animas County sheriff's deputies were recently fired over an incident where they allegedly tased an unarmed man 35 times.

The sheriff's office fired Deputy Mikhail Noel and Lt. Henry Trujillo over a November 2022 incident in Trinidad, about 200 miles south of Denver, where they pulled over Nate Espinoza. He and his father Kenneth Espinoza were driving in separate vehicles.

Attorneys representing 70-year-old Kenneth Espinoza say he was asked to move his truck from behind deputies' cars during the traffic stop. He started to move his car but deputies detained him and allegedly tased him 35 times in front of his son while handcuffed in the back of a police car.

RELATED: Colorado man sues sheriff's office, alleging excessive force after being tased 35 times

Attorneys representing Kenneth Espinoza released bodycam footage of the incident in May when they filed a federal lawsuit against the deputies. They characterized it as "assault" and "unjustified, excessive force."

"This is the most clear cut case of police negligence, brutality and abuse of power that I've ever seen," Keven Mehr, the attorney representing Kenneth Espinoza, said in a statement Monday. "The videos show it, the third-party investigation confirms it and Undersheriff Santistevan admits it."

"Let's be clear," he continued. "Firing Noel and Trujillo is an important step in this journey towards justice. But it's far from the last one."

Attorneys representing the deputies asked Judge Daniel D. Domenico, who's overseeing the case, to dismiss the lawsuit on Aug. 25, which he denied. The same day, those deputies were fired, Las Animas County Sheriff's Office Lt. Phil Martin Jr. confirmed Monday. He said he couldn't comment further, citing the ongoing lawsuit.

Also named as defendants in that lawsuit are the Las Animas Board of County Commissioners, Sheriff Derek Navarette and Undersheriff Rey Santistevan.

Espinoza's attorney says Navarette and Santistevan lied in their reports -- something, he says, was confirmed by an independent investigation by the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office.

"They didn't just brutalize Kenneth Espinoza and mislead the District Attorney's Office," he said. "They misled the press and the people of Las Animas County. This isn't an isolated incident and we're not going to let them get away with it."

Trujillo was criminally charged earlier this year for an unrelated incident while off duty where he allegedly tried to fight with a teenager, according to CBS News Colorado's news partner KKTV. Court records show he plead guilty to disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, and was issued a $236 fine.

He also has a three instances of a temporary protection order for domestic violence, all granted by a judge in 2006, and a harassment conviction from 1998 for which he served a year of probation and paid $179.50 in fines, court records show.

The sheriff's office declined to comment on those cases or say how Trujillo was hired, again citing the ongoing lawsuit. 

David Goddard, an attorney with Bruno, Colin & Lowe P.C. representing the deputies, also declined to comment on the case.

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