Lawsuit alleges Las Animas County lawmakers tased a man 35 times

DENVER – A man is suing the Las Animas County Sheriff’s Office after an arrest in November in which he said he was assaulted and verbally abused 35 times.

Kenneth Espinoza sued Deputy Henry Trujillo and other members of the Las Animas County Sheriff’s Office.

On November 29, 2022, Nate Espinoza said what should be a normal day in Trinidad with his father, Kenneth Espinoza, escalated very quickly.

“We drove his truck to the workshop. We weren’t there not to disturb anyone,” said Nate Espinoza.

Nate Espinoza said he was pulled over by Deputy Mikhail Noel for an alleged traffic violation. Within minutes, body camera footage showed things escalating as Deputy Trujillo approached Kenneth Espinoza’s truck, which was parked at the curb behind his son’s vehicle.

Video showed both MPs drawing their guns.

“Time has stopped,” said Nate Espinoza. “[I was] I just feel everything leaving my body.”

A short time later, Kenneth Espinoza was handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a police cruiser when video showed Deputy Trujillo’s father being kicked in the face.

Lawsuit alleges Las Animas County lawmakers tased a man 35 times

“He’s had about 35 tasties, including one on his face. One of the probes went into his mouth,” said Kevin Mehr, attorney for Kenneth Espinoza.

Mehr said Kenneth Espinoza was verbally abused by both MPs.

“Mikhail Noel does this repeatedly when he has this taser in his hand and keeps jabbing it,” Mehr said.

After the alleged assault, the lawsuit alleges Deputy Trujillo returned to the squad car to get Kenneth Espinoza’s information.

Kenneth Espinoza didn’t comply after he was asked to share some information, and body camera footage showed Deputy Trujillo grabbing him, still handcuffed, and slamming him to the ground. He was frisked and then put back in the squad car.

The lawsuit alleges that police reports by officers contained false or minimized statements from that day, and goes on to detail Deputy Trujillo’s criminal history.

“I don’t think he’s legally eligible for recertification and has essentially posed as a peace officer for the last 21 years,” Mehr said.

Deputy Trujillo was found guilty of harassment in 1998 and had multiple injunctions issued against him.

The Las Animas County Sheriff’s Office told Denver7 that the district attorney had not filed any charges against Kenneth Espinoza and his case was dismissed.

Sheriff Derek Navarette said he was using an outside agency to review the actions of the deputies involved. Both are on administrative leave. Sheriff Navarette declined to comment on the pending lawsuit.

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