Tuesday, May 8, 2007

APD officer spied on couple's naked doings, entered home, then assaulted them, lawsuit says

By Maggie Shepard, Albuquerque Tribune

Naked dancing. A dead dog. A police officer with an eye for detail and a can of Mace.

It's not the beginning to a great country song. It's the story laid out in a civil lawsuit filed in state District Court on Wednesday by Gary and Penny Schinagel against the Albuquerque Police Department and the city.

On Sept. 6, 2005, the Northeast Heights couple, married for more than 20 years, decided a bit of romance was the best way to celebrate their youngest child's departure for college.

Clothes came off. Music came on.

And soon, Albuquerque Police Officer Russell Moore was at their window looking in, responding, police say, to a call from a neighbor about loud music.

According to the lawsuit, a tape recorder on Moore's belt that records his actions indicated he stayed at the window for six minutes before making his way into their home.

Alarmed, the couple rushed to find their clothes. Gary Schinagel ended up in his wife's robe, confronting the officer, who had entered the home without a warrant and made his way to the kitchen, the lawsuit says.

Here, accounts of the bizarre night differ. The Schinagels say the officer took their fear and shock as aggression and sprayed Mace at them and their dog. The dog later died from complications, the lawsuit says.

The couple said they were handcuffed, still partially dressed, while they bled from being hit with a flashlight and were prevented from relieving their burning eyes.

The officer, according to police reports, said the Schinagels were aggressive and assaulted him, hurting his jaw. They were arrested on charges of battery on a police officer, which were later dismissed, according to court documents.

The lawsuit says the police officers who arrived later failed to help the family dog and left the home unlocked.

An Albuquerque TV station on Sept. 7, 2005, broadcast a report showing the couple's home near Tramway and Menaul boulevards Northeast and noting that the Schinagels weren't available for comment because they were out of town.

The home was burglarized early the next morning, the lawsuit says.

"It's hard to believe," said Ken Wagner, the Schinagel's attorney. "We have a right to privacy in our homes, and there is a right way and wrong way to enter."

Albuquerque police spokeswoman Trish Hoffman was not immediately able to determine if Moore or other officers involved in the incident had been administratively sanctioned.

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