- Associated Press - Monday, April 4, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Two Albuquerque police officers can be sued for using a stun gun on a suspect who suffered from mental illness and later died, a federal appeals court said.

In a decision issued Monday, the 10th U.S. Circuit of Appeals ruled that Albuquerque officers David Baca and Andrew Jaramillo did not have immunity when they used the stun gun on Jerry Perea during a 2013 encounter and could therefore be sued in a wrongful death case.

A wrongful death lawsuit filed by Perea’s family claimed Perea was hit with a stun gun 10 times after the officers were called to the scene for a welfare check. The lawsuit said the officers knocked Perea off of his bicycle after he passed a stop sign.

According to police, Perea hit officers with a crucifix during a scuffle and was then shot with a stun gun. Perea initially appeared to be fine and even apologized to the officers for striking them with the crucifix, police said.

Paramedics were called to treat Perea but he became unresponsive, possibly due to cardiac arrest.

The city had argued the officers were justified in using the stun gun. An autopsy later revealed Perea, who weighed 300 pounds, had heart disease and methamphetamine in his system.

The medical examiner could not determine his exact cause of death nor say if the stun gun blows contributed to his death.

Santiago Juarez, an attorney for the Perea family, said the appeals ruling should push the city to settle the case.

“The family has been fighting this for quite a while now,” Juarez said. “This sends a strong message to the city of Albuquerque.”

Albuquerque City Attorney Jessica Hernandez, who is representing the officers, did not immediately return an email.

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