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Grandma Says Police Neglect Ended in Murder

SILVER CITY, N.M. (CN) — A grandmother of two sued the Silver City Police Department, claiming it ignored an officer's history of violence, stalking and assault and her daughter's repeated pleas for help, allowing him to kill her daughter.

Capt. Mark Contreras shot his ex-girlfriend Nikki Bascom to death and then killed himself on April 21.

Her mother, Karri Dalton, says Contreras had been stalking and harassing her daughter for weeks, and Silver City police protected their fellow officer rather than take any steps to stop the escalating violence. She sued on behalf of her daughter's two children, who are 13 and 6.

Silver City and its police department and Grant County and its sheriff's department are the defendants in the Oct. 21 lawsuit in Grant County Court.

"For weeks prior to the killing, Captain Contreras stalked, threatened and abuse Nikki with impunity," her mother says in the lawsuit. "She had repeatedly reported his concerning, illegal behavior to [Police] Chief [Ed] Reynolds. She had done so again on the day she was killed. That morning, Captain Contreras had tried to run her off the road and gone to her boss's house ... to confront him. In both instances, he was on duty, armed with his service weapon and driving his police unit. Still, the chief did not take immediate action to stop him. On the day that she was killed, Nikki also tried to seek help from Grant County sheriff's deputies. They too did nothing."

Contreras had a long history of violence against her daughter, Dalton says. When he was a police lieutenant, he thought she was cheating on him with her boss during a business trip, and he called Bascom more than 70 times during the course of the trip. When she returned, Contreras "dragged Nikki outside, pinned her to the car, and put his cocked police-issued sidearm to her head, and then to his own head," her mother says.

Bascom's son called 911 and the officers who responded were under Contreras's command and did not charge him with domestic violence, though Nikki was "visibly bruised," her mom says.

In the weeks after that incident, Contreras threatened to kill his now-ex-girlfriend if she got a restraining order or caused him to lose his job, Dalton says. Contreras also confronted Nikki's boss, a doctor, and told him, "You're gonna get hurt. You wait. I'm gonna hurt you," according to the complaint.

After receiving a report of this confrontation, Police Chief Reynolds told Contreras to "knock it off," but promoted him to captain, Dalton says.

She says Silver City police knew Contreras had a history of violence before, including a domestic assault charge, even before it hired him. In that case, he was charged with battering his ex-wife, "pulling a gun out of his truck and threatening to kill her and another man," again, because he thought she was cheating on him, according to the complaint, which cites a Silver City Police Department Offense Report.

Citing another Silver City police report, Dalton says police "knew or should have known that Contreras manufactured child pornography featuring himself exposing his penis while in uniform, while employed with the Silver City Police Department."

On the day he killed her, Dalton says, Contreras ate breakfast with the police chief and Capt. Ricky Villalobos, neither of whom is named as a defendant. Contreras then ran Nikki off the road with his police car, threatened her, accused her again of having a relationship with her boss, and took her phone.

Nikki then drove to the police office and met with Reynolds and Villalobos. In response, Villalobos told Nikki that she could be charged with "false reporting," according to the complaint.

Contreras went to the doctor's home and threatened him. The doctor called police, including Villalobos, but neither police nor Grant County Sheriff's deputies who arrived to take the report made any attempt to apprehend Contreras, the complaint states. They told the doctor to call 911 if Contreras returned.

When police officers were dispatched to Nikki's home, where Contreras had followed her, his fellow officers warned Contreras that the doctor had requested a criminal trespass warning, but didn't arrest him or force him to leave. They told Nikki, who was crying in her car, that she could go to a battered women's shelter and get a restraining order.

At some point that day, the complaint states, Reynolds met with Contreras at Nikki's home and told him he was being put on paid leave. At that time, the police chief either let Contreras into Nikki's home, or watched as Contreras broke in himself and took cash and "an arsenal of firearms, including the weapon he would later use to kill Nikki" from the home, according to the complaint.

When Nikki went to the women's shelter to try to get a restraining order, Contreras followed her there, and its staff called 911 and asked that a sheriff's officer come, not a police officer. The deputy who arrived to take the report identified Contreras's truck outside the shelter, but rather than confronting Contreras, the deputy asked, "something to the effect of, 'What do you want me to do?'," according to the complaint.

Around 4:20 p.m., just after Nikki picked up her son from school, Contreras followed her to a friend's driveway and shot and killed her, then killed himself.

The family seeks damages for wrongful death, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, lost earnings, funeral expenses, and "future medical costs related to the injuries resultant from growing up without a mother."

They are represented by Laura Schauer Ives with Kennedy Kennedy & Ives in Albuquerque.

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