- Associated Press - Friday, December 4, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Santa Fe County Sheriff’s deputies unlawfully raided a home of a nude-sleeping couple, pointed assault rifles at them and their 11-year-old daughter and arrested a mother over a low-level witness case, according to a federal lawsuit and the couple’s attorney.

Luis Ramirez said his wife, the Mexican-born Norma Ramirez, was then held in jail for six days because authorities suspected she was an immigrant in the country illegally. She was freed after he was able to prove she was a U.S. citizen, he said.

According to a civil rights lawsuit that moved to U.S. District Court in Albuquerque this week, two Santa Fe County Sheriff’s deputies stormed the home of Luis and Norma Ramirez one late morning in October 2013 after the couple had worked long hours the day before.

Santa Fe County Attorney Department Administrator Robin Gurule said the county doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Deputies had a warrant for Norma Ramirez, who unknowingly had been ordered to testify in a restraining order case involving her husband and his ex-wife, the couple’s attorney Roderick Thompson said.

Court documents said the couple’s 11-year-old daughter came into their bedroom scared after hearing loud banging on the door.

“We couldn’t go down there immediately to check it out because, you know, we were nude and didn’t want our daughter to see,” Luis Ramirez, now 48, said.

But the couple said they heard the garage door open and deputies enter the house. Deputies yelled that were from the sheriff’s department and demanded to talk to Norma, court papers said.

When Norma Ramirez came down to speak with deputies, she “was violently spun around, shoved to the wall with a thud and handcuffed,” the lawsuit said.

Documents say deputies arrested Norma Ramirez after pointing assault rifles at her, her husband and the couple’s 11-year-old daughter. The unnamed deputies refused to say why she was being arrested and searched the house without the couple’s permission.

“They went in looking for a witness but treated her like a terrorist,” Thompson said. “This was a gross violation of her civil rights.”

Court documents said Norma Ramirez, now 46, suffered emotional distress and remains afraid of law enforcement. Thompson said she had no prior criminal record.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount in damages.

Luis Ramirez said the family moved from Santa Fe to Lubbock, Texas, out of fear. “We lost clients and had to move our business,” said Ramirez, who operates a custodial and construction company with his wife. “We were scared and didn’t want to be there anymore.”


Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at https://twitter.com/russcontreras . His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/russell-contreras.

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