- Associated Press - Thursday, May 1, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A former Espanola officer later fired for not attending the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy choked a teenager after a foam football hit his cruiser in 2012, according to a lawsuit filed by the family of the teen.

The lawsuit was filed this week in state District Court on behalf of Dolores Tapia and her four children. It claims former officer John Vigil used unnecessary excessive force and unloaded a string of profanities at the family in an effort to solve the mystery of the football toss, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported (http://goo.gl/BOQKTM).

Espanola Public Safety Director Eric Garcia said he couldn’t comment on the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, Tapia came home from church and found Vigil “rummaging” through her van’s glove compartment in June 2012. She hadn’t given consent to have the vehicle searched, the lawsuit said.

After he told her about the football, the lawsuit says she ordered her 15-year-old and a 10-year-old to apologize to Vigil, but he became “angrier and (he) began to threaten them and their mother with profanities.”

Tapia requested to speak with Vigil’s superior, and a short time later, four more officers arrived at the scene. The lawsuit says Tapia tried to explain the situation to supervisor Jose Talache, but Vigil began to interrupt, saying, “I’m not afraid of you,” and “Do you think I am scared of you because my supervisor is here?”

Vigil then “lunged at (Tapia) and looked as if he was going to hit her,” the lawsuit claims. When the 14-year-old tried to step in to defend his mother, according to the lawsuit, Vigil grabbed the child “around the neck with both his hands and began to choke him” and “picked him up so that (the child’s) feet were dangling above the ground.”

The complaint says the teen gasped for air and turned bright red, then blue, before police officers and the 15-year-old pulled Vigil off the younger teen. After the attack, the boy was treated in a hospital emergency room for “severe throat pain, nausea, a throbbing headache and labored breathing,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says Vigil also threw punches at the 15-year-old and chased him, and that other officers had to restrain Vigil.

According to the newspaper report, Talache told the family that “they had the right to press charges against Officer Vigil.”

But the complaint alleges no one investigated the attack and that Vigil was never disciplined, even though the family filed a report.

Garcia told the Santa Fe New Mexican that Vigil no longer works as an officer for the department. Garcia said the city had temporarily hired Vigil with the condition that he attend the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy, but he never did and was dismissed.

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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