Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Teen Shocked By Taser to Sue Cops

By Jeremy Pawloski , Journal Staff Writer

The family of a 16-year-old boy who is accused of battering a police officer during a Frito pie food fight at Capital High School Oct. 5 will sue the Santa Fe Police Department for repeatedly shocking the teen with a Taser gun during the incident.
Sheri Raphaelson, 16-year-old Nick Mendoza's civil attorney, also said that at least one of the police officers who shocked Mendoza with a Taser during the incident called Mendoza a "mojado," or wetback.
Raphaelson said that Mendoza was shocked five times, and at least two of the Taser shocks came after Mendoza had already been handcuffed.
"There is no legal or ethical justification for Tasing this child after he was handcuffed and completely under the officers' control," Raphaelson said. "Tasing the child at that point could only have been for the amusement of the police officers."
City, state and county officers were called to Capital High Oct. 5 after students started throwing Frito pie at one another, leading to a disturbance that police said involved as many as 200 students. A security guard was treated for a mild concussion after he was hit in the head with a large object, possibly a bottle or rock.
Mendoza is charged in Santa Fe Children's Court with battery against a police officer and resisting arrest.
Prosecutor Heidi Zoyhofski said one police detective has already told a judge that when police responded at Capital High School, Mendoza was "trying to grab an officer around the waist, trying to body slam him to the ground."
Zoyhofski also noted that Mendoza has seven referrals to juvenile court for various juvenile offenses, and four of them are "for battery-type offenses."
Raphaelson said it is unfortunate that Mendoza is the only one who was charged in the aftermath of the Frito pie food fight, particularly in light of the fact that Mendoza was not even involved.
"He wasn't even in the cafeteria at the time of the food fight," Raphaelson said.
Santa Fe City Attorney Bruce Thompson said Tuesday he was not aware of the potential for litigation against the police department for shocking Mendoza, and so he did not have an immediate comment.
Santa Fe Deputy Police Chief Eric Johnson has said police who responded to the food fight "acted within our policy and procedure."
Mark Dickson, Mendoza's Children's Court attorney, said Tuesday, "It's unfortunate that Nick was Tased."
Dickson was present during a Tuesday hearing to decide whether Mendoza would be released from a juvenile detention facility pending the outcome of his charges.
Dickson added that Mendoza "is not a large adolescent by any means."
Zoyhofski said during Tuesday's hearing that Mendoza is a documented gang member, but Dickson denied that Mendoza is a member of any gang.
Raphaelson said the reason police paid any attention to Mendoza at all is because he had responded to other students who were yelling "mojado" at him.
Santa Fe District Judge Michael Vigil ruled that Mendoza must remain in custody until a juvenile hearing to be held Monday morning before Santa Fe Children's Court Judge Barbara Vigil.
During Monday's hearing, school officials will have already met to decide what Mendoza's school status will be, and that is an outcome that Judge Michael Vigil said he wants Judge Barbara Vigil to have at her disposal before she makes a ruling on whether he should remain in custody.
Raphaelson said that because Mendoza is a special education student, it is unlikely that he will be suspended from Capital High. If a school district suspends a special education student, that school district must pay to educate the student at home, under an individualized education plan.

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