ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (CN) - A TV reporter claims an Albuquerque police officer with a history of bad behavior destroyed evidence of the cop knocking down a teen-ager - which the reporter was able to recover with help from a forensic technician.
Christina Rodda, a reporter and news anchor for KOB-TV in Albuquerque, sued Officer Stephanie Lopez and the City of Albuquerque in Federal Court.
Rodda claims she was working on a story about a rave party at Tumbleweeds, an Albuquerque nightclub, where "hundreds of people," including underage kids, were on the grounds.
Rodda claims: "At one point, Officer Lopez became rough with a young patron and pushed him to the ground.
"Plaintiff caught this footage on tape.
"Officer Lopez has had similar conduct in the past and has been disciplined for that conduct by APD.
"Thus, Officer Lopez did not want that video getting out into the public."
Rodda says that a Tumbleweeds employee, Angela Cleland, and two police officers, including Lopez, "approached plaintiff and told her she did not have permission to be there and she demanded plaintiff hand her the tape in the video camera. Plaintiff told Cleland there was no tape in the camera but even if there was she would not hand it over. Plaintiff then told Cleland and the officer that she would gladly leave."
As she did, Rodda says, Lopez demanded that she stop. She did, she says, and Lopez "frisked and searched plaintiff's purse without her consent and without probable cause to do so."
Rodda says she did not show any signs of aggression toward Lopez, and complied with all her commands.
The complaint continues: "Officer Lopez admitted that plaintiff was compliant with her demands at all times.
"Officer Lopez then demanded to plaintiff that she was taking the video camera
"Officer Lopez then confiscated the video camera.
"Officer Lopez took the video camera home instead of tagging it into evidence.
"Officer Lopez admitted she viewed the video in her home.
"Officer Lopez admitted she never tagged the 'evidence' into evidence at APD.
"Three days later, the video was returned to KOB.
"However, the video clip with the kid being thrown down in police brutality was deleted.
"An independent expert reviewed the video camera and was able to recover the deleted clip of the kid being thrown down.
"The expert determined that the clip was deleted while the camera was in Officer Lopez's possession.
"Thus, Officer Lopez tampered with evidence.
"Officer Lopez then issued a criminal summons charging plaintiff with criminal trespass."
Rodda says the judge dismissed the case and "did not even require the defense to put on their case."
The complaint continues: "The criminal trespass case was a frivolous and malicious prosecution to further Officer Lopez's own interests in an attempt to cover up the police brutality and not get in trouble with internal affairs.
"This was done for her own personal gain."
Rodda seeks punitive damages for constitutional violations, malicious and selective prosecution, intentional spoliation of evidence, negligence, medical costs, and state torts.
She is represented by B.J. Crow.
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