On Jan. 14, the city of Deming and the county of Hidalgo, N.M. settled a lawsuit filed by a man subjected to police abuse. According to attorneys in the case, the city and county settled for damages totaling $1.6 million.
As the lawsuit describes, on Jan. 2, 2013, David Eckert was pulled over by Officer Chavez for alleged failure to stop at a stop sign. Officer Chavez did not witness the event, but acted on word from Officer Orosco. During the traffic stop, Eckert's vehicle was searched without consent, warrant, or probable cause by Officer Chavez. Officer Chavez noted Eckert's “posture to be erect and he kept his legs together.” Officers Green and Arredondo arrived with a narcotics canine, which alerted inside Eckert's car. Officers Orosco and Arredondo then told Officer Chavez that Eckert was known to hide drugs in his rectum, which was false. Based on this claim and the way he was standing, Eckert was detained and taken to the Deming Police Department. Eckert was denied the right to make a phone call from the police station, and a search warrant was obtained for Eckert's anal cavity, which was acted upon outside the jurisdiction of the warrant after a doctor at the local hospital refused to search Eckert on ethical grounds. The searches occurred in the form of two X-rays, two digital rectal searches, three enemas, and a colonoscopy. No illegal substances were found. On top of this, Gila Regional Medical Center, at which the procedures were performed, has attempted to bill Eckert for the forcible invasions of his body.
The incident followed another in September 2012 in which a search warrant was issued for Eckert's vehicle, also based on a dog alert, which turned up no evidence of illegal substances.
“It was medically unethical and unconstitutional,” Shannon Kennedy, Eckert's attorney, told The Associated Press. “He feels relieved that this part is over and believes this litigation might make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else.”
“I feel that I got some justice as I think the settlement shows they were wrong to do what they did to me,” Eckert said in a statement. “I truly hope that no one will be treated like this ever again. I felt very helpless and alone on that night.”
Hidalgo County and Deming officials both declined to comment about the settlement.
Eckert is still suing the doctors who invaded his body as well as Gila Regional Medical Center.