Rio Arriba County, NM — This week, dramatic body camera footage was released showing Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Barnes repeatedly taser a special education student for allegedly refusing to comply with a search. The incident has many folks saying that the deputy went too far, and now the taxpayers will likely be held accountable.
The disturbing scene unfolded earlier this month on May 10 at Española Valley High School. The teen was brought to the office to be searched by staff and when the deputy arrived, the student was compliant and sitting in a chair.
However, when deputy Barnes attempted to search the student, all hell would break loose.
“Schools should be a place where students feel safe and protected,” New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a written statement in regard to the video. “I am aggressively investigating this disturbing incident.”
As the video shows, the deputy walks into the room with an unprofessional demeanor from the start. When the security guard claimed the student swung his backpack into him, the interaction escalated from there.
“Slammed you with a backpack, that’s not a big deal,” Barnes said sarcastically.
The security guard then told the deputy that the child was allegedly refusing to be searched, which sent Barnes into an entirely unprofessional state.
“Oh, he’s refusing, that’s fine,” Barnes said. “I’ll put his little a** in handcuffs and take him to Santa Fe.”
Barnes then told the boy to stand up and the boy complied and allowed Barnes to have his arms to place him in handcuffs.
Barnes then asks the student if he wanted to be cooperative or uncooperative.
The student turned around to address Barnes, telling him, “What do you think I am doing?”
Barnes told the student to turn around once more at which point the student called the officer a derogatory name and appeared to make a small but sudden movement. This was the line in the sand for Barnes who then snapped.
To be clear, no one here is claiming that the student should have been so disrespectful. However, the use of force that was used in response to the disrespect appeared to be over the top.
Barnes grabbed the student by the back of the head area and slammed him face-first into the desk in front of him. The security guard then jumped in and pulled the student’s shirt over his head so he could not see.
“I’m going to f**king tase you,” Barnes yells at the student who is seated in a chair unable to see with a hoodie over his face.
“Tase him, tase him, tase him!” the security guard said. Barnes quickly obliged.
Against the recommendation of the manufacturer, Barnes deploys the taser into the student’s upper left chest which is known to cause cardiac arrest and other severe injuries, including death.
The taser caused the boy to scream out in agony which appeared to infuriate Barnes. As the boy screams, Barnes cycles the taser once more.
The boy is now flailing around in agony which the deputy likely perceived as resisting, so the deputy cycled the taser once more. During the last cycle, the boy had the security guard’s 300 pound knee in the back of his neck and was entirely helpless.
“Put your hands up, put your hands behind your back,” Barnes said. As if it’s easy to comply with conflicting orders with 10,000 volts getting zapped into your chest as a massive grown man puts his knee in your neck.
“Ow, ow, ow!” the student screamed as he begged the deputy to “please stop, please.”
Barnes then called in an ambulance noting that the student had been tasered.
“Ow, that hurt so much,” the student said.
Romero then blamed it all on him, saying that the student should have complied.
“What do you mean?” the student asked.
As the deputy searches the student, he claims to have found a “wax pen.”
But the student tells Barnes that it is just a pencil.
“Please, take off my belt, everything is in my shorts, I don’t even have anything bad,” the student tells Barnes.
When the deputy and the security guard got the student to his knees, the boy appeared to be in even more pain.
“I can’t ow, ow, ow, my knee,” the student said. “My knee, ow, oh god, my knee, my knee.”
The student continued to complain of severe pain.
“It’s pain compliance,” Barnes told him. “It’s not going to kill you.”
At this point the boy’s mother arrives at school but the deputy refuses to allow her to see her son, noting that he is bringing him to jail.
“She can wait, because he’s going to jail,” Barnes told school staff.
When Barnes approached the mother, he told her that the students individualized education plan (IEP) did not matter. An IEP is a written document developed for school children who are in special education to deal with their special needs. Staff are required to follow it.
The student’s mother told Barnes that the IEP directly addressed the way her son would be approached while at school to deal with his condition.
Despite this, Barnes told the mother the IEP did not matter and that she could not see him.
What’s more, according to the Rio Grand Sun, what Barnes wrote in his report and what is seen on the body camera footage are two different stories.
After the initial incident, Sheriff’s Office Maj. Randy Sanches said originally claimed that Barnes’ use of force was “good.” However, later Sanches would change his assessment and note that this is not the official stance of the department.
The family of the student has since hired an attorney and is seeking legal action.
Sadly, the incident in the video below seems to be getting more common. As more schools rely on police action to solve their problems, this is the inevitable result.