Lawsuit: Taser allegedly used on inmate 30 times in a day

Mark Martinez, 27, filed the lawsuit last month against MDC, the New Mexico Department of Corrections, Correctional Healthcare Companies and 17 individual employees

By Ryan Boetel
​Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE — A former inmate at the Metropolitan Detention Center has filed a lawsuit against the jail, alleging that corrections officers used a Taser on him more than 30 times in a day while he was suffering from mental illnesses.

At one point, Bernalillo County jail staff even threatened to use the Taser on hospital employees who tried to intervene on the inmate’s behalf, according to the court action.

Mark Martinez, 27, filed the lawsuit last month against MDC, the New Mexico Department of Corrections, Correctional Healthcare Companies and 17 individual employees, most of whom work for the jail. The lawsuit stemmed from Martinez’s arrest in May 2013 shortly after his mother committed suicide.

The lawsuit alleges that Martinez was struggling from his diagnosed schizophrenia and bipolar and anxiety disorders at the time he was booked into jail.

As a Corrections Department transport officer was preparing to load Martinez into a van to take him from the jail to a corrections facility in Los Lunas, Martinez said he saw demons in the van and began pleading not to go, according to the lawsuit.

Jail officers allegedly used a Taser on him repeatedly, beat him, and slammed the van doors on his legs in an attempt to get him into the van, according to the lawsuit.

The suit says that Daniel Salazar and Chris Facey, jail employees, combined to use a Taser on Martinez 17 times while trying to get him into the van. Martinez was also sprayed with tear gas three times, according to the suit.

Medical staff then ordered Martinez be transported to the University of New Mexico Hospital instead of into Corrections Department custody because of his injuries.

At the hospital, the lawsuit alleges, three jail officers tried to strip-search Martinez, and David Herrera, a jail guard, used a Taser on Martinez’s chest and groin 15 times while trying to take his clothes off.

The lawsuit said several hospital medical personnel entered Martinez’s room and yelled at the guards to stop, at which time the jail staff threatened to use a Taser on at least two hospital employees. Eventually, hospital security was called and de-escalated the situation, according to the lawsuit.

“I literally would call them sociopaths,” said Frances Crockett Carpenter, an Albuquerque attorney who filed the lawsuit on Martinez’s behalf. “It was shocking.”

Carpenter said she obtained an internal jail investigation into the incident that confirmed the number of times the guards used their Tasers. She said that there are also videos of jail staffers trying to get Martinez into the van and that his injuries were documented at the hospital.

Martinez is in custody for an unrelated criminal case.

Jail and county officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Alex Tomlin, a spokeswoman for the Corrections Department, said there was only one transport officer from the Corrections Department present during the attempt to transfer Martinez. She said the department immediately launched an internal investigation into that employee, who was cleared of wrongdoing.

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