Officer videoed body slamming suspect
Actions of two officers to undergo review
July 21, 2021
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The actions of two Tucumcari police officers will undergo an internal review after one was seen on video picking up and slamming a suspect to the ground during an arrest Saturday at a grocery store parking lot.
The Tucumcari Police Department issued a statement Sunday on its Facebook page, stating “we are aware of the video circulating around social media” of the use-of-force incident involving suspect Pete Apodaca, 43, of Tucumcari.
“Tucumcari PD reviews every use of force situation and this incident is no different,” the statement read. “The incident will be reviewed to determine if any laws or department policies were violated. The video shows a small snapshot of the arrest, however the full review will reveal all the events that occurred leading up to this incident, during this incident, and what happened after the video stops.
“Once the review is complete, if the officers have been found to have violated our policies or the law, the appropriate action will be taken.”
The administrator of TPD’s Facebook page wrote in a message to the Quay County Sun the two officers will remain on the job as the reviews proceed.
A criminal complaint filed against Apodaca identifies the two officers as Cpl. Herman Martinez and Justin Garcia, the latter who applied use-of-force on the suspect.
According to Martinez’s complaint filed Monday morning, Apodaca was charged with battery upon a police officer, two counts of resisting, evading, or obstructing an officer, driving while license suspended, no proof of insurance and failure to register a vehicle.
The battery charge is a fourth-degree felony that could lead up to 18 months in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.
According to the complaint, officers were sent Saturday afternoon to Second Street to investigate a possible drunken driver. They pulled over a van in the Lowe’s Market parking lot that matched the description. Officers found the van had been driven by Apodaca, whose revoked driver’s license included an arrest clause.
Apodaca acknowledged he had a revoked license and begged not to be arrested, according to the complaint. He resisted arrest as Martinez tried to handcuff him near the van and struck Martinez in the face, the complaint alleges. Garcia arrived to give aid and “performed an arm bar takedown” on Apodaca. Martinez said he also drew his Taser several times at Apodaca to get him to comply with his orders but never discharged it.
Josh Daniel of Tucumcari, who was inside the store about that time, began shooting the video with his smartphone when he saw police “swarming” in the parking lot.
“I saw something that had the potential of being a bad situation, and I decided to record,” he said.
Daniel kept recording as he walked out of the store. Footage shows a handcuffed male suspect being detained by two officers near an open rear passenger door of a Tucumcari Police squad car.
Footage showed as Apodaca was about to be placed in the car, he lunged away from one of the officers. The officer responded by lifting Apodaca in a bear hug and throwing him headfirst to the pavement. Both officers subdued him as he laid on the parking lot, where he could be heard moaning.
According to the criminal complaint, Apodaca “attempted to run” from Garcia.
“Officer J. Garcia grabbed ahold of Apodaca and threw him to the ground to prevent him from escaping,” it stated. “Apodaca landed on his shoulder and head during the takedown, cutting his ear and head on the pavement.”
Apodaca’s wife, Vanessa, told KRQE-TV in Albuquerque that he suffered fractured ribs and possibly broke his collarbone during the altercation.
Bystanders could be heard in the video questioning the use of force, saying “Are you serious?” and “Police brutality!”
Martinez stated in his complaint he called dispatch to send medics to his location. Apodaca said he was complaining of having trouble breathing. Apodaca’s father spoke to him and urged him to sit and calm down.
An ambulance arrived and took Apodaca to Trigg Memorial Hospital for treatment, the complaint stated. Medics also treated Martinez at the scene for cuts he suffered during the altercation, and he later drove to the hospital for treatment of other injuries, he wrote.
Martinez wrote he notified the Quay County Detention Center and made arrangements for a 48-hour release for Apodaca for medical reasons.
Even if the suspect resisted arrest, Daniel said the officer “could have handled it less violently.”
“I don’t see why he picked him up like a rag doll,” Daniel said. “I don’t see how anybody deserves to be face-planted like that.”
The video, uploaded by Daniel to Facebook about an hour after he shot it Saturday, had generated more than 185 comments by Sunday, with more than 130 shares and 2,100 views as of Sunday afternoon.
Commenters on the social media platform largely were split between those who thought the officer went too far and those who said he used appropriate force on a suspect who was resisting arrest.
“Dude shouldn’t have tried to run,” one wrote.
“You don’t need to slam someone to keep them detained,” another wrote.
The video had been removed from Facebook by Monday morning.
Mayor Ruth Ann Litchfield voiced her support for the officers during a phone interview Sunday.
“In my opinion, Officer Garcia was doing what he tried to do to catch the suspect. I support him 100%,” she said.
Acting Police Chief Pete Rivera did not return a call or email requesting comment. Rivera became acting chief when his predecessor, David Lathrom, resigned effective July 7.