ALBUQUERQUE (CN) - New Mexico sheriff's officers shot an 88-year-old deaf and purblind widower with PepperBalls and sicced a dog on him the morning after his wife of 67 years died, and he died of his injuries a month later, his daughter claims in court.
Bernalillo County Sheriff's officers were supposed to be doing a welfare check 88-year-old Fidencio Duran, his daughter says in her lawsuit against the county and its sheriff.
The morning after his wife died, Duran was dazed and grief-stricken, and was seen talking to people who weren't actually there. When he wandered out of his house at 7:30 a.m. wearing no shirt and one shoe, a concerned neighbor called the sheriff's department to ask for someone to check on him, Celestina Duran says in her Jan. 26 complaint in Bernalillo County Court.
Responding officers wrote in incident reports that Duran was incoherent and asking for someone to kill him, switching between Spanish and English and apparently unable to comprehend what the officers were saying to him.
The reports state that the elderly man, who was partially blind and fully deaf, was holding a folding pocket knife.
When attempts to persuade him to put down the knife failed, officers shot him with PepperBall rounds in the feet, legs and upper body. Then they set loose a muzzled police dog to knock him to the ground, breaking his pelvis and femur.
Capsaicin rounds from the PepperBalls shot broke through Duran's skin and some plastic fragments were embedded under his skin. He died a month later and Medical Investigator determined the death to be a homicide.
According to the manufacturer, PepperBall rounds are prohibited for use against children, the elderly, and people with respiratory or heart ailments.
The Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department declined to comment, but provided copies of the incident reports.
Celestina Duran's attorney Shannon Kennedy provided gruesome photos of her injured father, with more than a dozen bloody wounds.
Celestina Duran seeks damages for wrongful death, negligence and civil rights violations, and injunctions ordering better use of lapel cameras for sheriff's officers, and prohibiting the use of police dogs and PepperBall rounds against the elderly.
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