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New Mexico deputy appears on felony battery charge

October 1, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico sheriff’s deputy made a first court appearance on Monday on accusations he used excessive force when authorities say he kicked a suspect and fractured his face earlier this year.

Judge Jill M. Martinez allowed David Priemazon to remain free on a $500 bond, continue carrying a sidearm for a security job, and be around liquor but not consume it because he says he has a volunteer position at a charity that he says requires him to be around alcohol.

Priemazon, 48, is a 15-year veteran of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s office. He has been charged with aggravated battery resulting in great bodily harm, a felony. He did not enter a plea at Monday’s hearing, and his attorney did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

In March, authorities said Priemazon was in a vehicle pursuit of a man suspected of driving a car with the wrong license plate. The chase ended in a crash in Albuquerque where a criminal complaint says Priemazon kicked the driver.

The act was not carried out for the “purposes of lawful arrest,” and resulted in the suspect, 34-year-old Christopher Lucero, being hospitalized, the complaint said.

Another deputy reported Priemazon to his bosses, who launched an internal investigation.

Sheriff Manuel Gonzales said that investigation revealed the need for a criminal probe, which was handled by New Mexico State Police. On Friday, the district attorney’s office in Bernalillo County filed the criminal charge against Priemazon.

Gonzales in a statement last week also praised the deputy who came forward with concerns about Priemazon, citing his “courage and integrity.”

In recent months, the sheriff’s office has come under scrutiny for a spate of high-speed pursuits and lawsuits stemming from deadly use-of-force cases.

Earlier this year, sheriff’s department documents disclosed the agency had agreed to settle a lawsuit for nearly $1.5 million with the family of 88-year-old Fidencio Duran, of Albuquerque.

He died from pneumonia as a result of injuries suffered in September 2015, when deputies fired pepper balls at him and a police dog knocked him down.

The cases, in part, spurred calls from Bernalillo County commissioners for an independent review of the sheriff’s use-of-force and pursuit policies. The review conducted by Daigle Law Group of Connecticut last month resulted in 22 recommendations, including suggestions that the department more precisely define use-of-force language in its policies.

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