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Colorado sheriff's office settles for $1.5M in tasing lawsuit: "If the sheriff won't hold you accountable, we will"

Las Animas County Sheriff's Office reaches $1.5 million settlement for tasing man 35 times in 2022
Las Animas County Sheriff's Office reaches $1.5 million settlement for tasing man 35 times in 2022 00:30

A sheriff's office in southern Colorado has settled a lawsuit with a 71-year-old man who deputies allegedly tased 35 times in 2022 for $1.5 million.

Kenneth Espinoza, of Trinidad, was in his truck when Las Animas County sheriff's deputies pulled over his son. Espinoza was asked to pull his vehicle behind the deputies' cars but was almost immediately detained and eventually tased while handcuffed in the back of a patrol car a number of times. Two of those deputies were fired in September 2023.

One of the attorneys representing Espinoza said when the deputies were fired that this was "the most clear cut case of police negligence, brutality and abuse of power that I've ever seen." Espinoza was not accused of any crime and his attorneys say he posed no threat to deputies or anyone else.

Las Animas Sheriff's Office

In response to the lawsuit settlement, Espinoza's attorney Kevin Mehr said the decision benefits all Coloradans.

"This settlement is not only a victory for Mr. Espinoza and his family," Mehr said in a statement. "It's a victory for the people of Colorado and sends a clear message to thugs like this who think a badge is a license for brutality, your day is done. If the sheriff won't hold you accountable, we will."

The lawsuit was filed against former Las Animas Sheriff's Lt. Henry Trujillo, former Deputy Mikhail Noel, Undersheriff Rey Santistevan, Sheriff Derek Navarette, the Las Animas County Sheriff's Office and the Las Animas County Board of County Commissioners.

"To watch my father almost lose his life to these men -- time stopped," Espinoza's son Nate Espinoza said in a May 2023 news conference announcing the lawsuit. "I can still see them pointing the gun at my father and watching time stop, just feeling everything leave my body."

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

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 pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, and was issued a $236 fine.

He also has 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.

Neither the sheriff's office nor attorneys for the defendants immediately responded to requests for comment Monday afternoon.

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