ALBUQUERQUE (CN) — The beleaguered Albuquerque Police Department has been sued again, this time by a kidnap victim who says officers didn’t even bother to knock on the door the second time she called 911 for help.
Jacquelyn Barela sued the city, the police and Officers Timothy Wolffbrandt and Daniel Galvan on May 23 in Bernalillo County Court.
Barela claims that Tito Fajardo and Mary Lou Hern kidnapped her and kept her hogtied and in chains for nearly two weeks, until she got ahold of a phone and called 911, telling the dispatcher their names and where they were holding her.
Fajardo pleaded guilty to aggravated battery, false imprisonment, conspiracy to commit aggravated battery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and possession of a firearm by a felon. He is serving 3 years of a 7-year sentence, to be followed by 4 years of probation.
Hern pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit false imprisonment and was sentenced to 18 days in jail and 18 months of probation.
Barela says in the lawsuit that Officers Wolffbrandt and Galvan went to the address, but when no one answered their knocks at the door and they saw nothing by looking into windows, they left.
Barela says she called 911 again and told the dispatcher her captors had turned off the lights and were refusing to answer the door, and pleaded again to be rescued.
Wolffbrandt and Galvan returned to the neighborhood, but Barela says that rather than search the house, they chatted with neighbors, saying they were investigating a claim of a woman being held captive, then wandered to a nearby address to investigate a pair of stolen cars and perform an arrest.
Barela says that on their second visit, the officers didn’t even knock on the door.
According to the complaint, the officers told a group of neighbors — which included Mary Lou Hern — that they had received calls from a woman claiming to be held prisoner and seeking rescue. As a result of Hern’s learning that, Barela says, she was severely beaten, raped, and had her head shaved for being a “rat.”
Barela says she escaped the next day, without police assistance, and Fajardo and Hern were arrested.
She says her ordeal was part of a pattern of Albuquerque police prioritizing property crimes over other investigations. The APD has around 100 officers and multiple units devoted to investigating property crimes, but only about 10 officers assigned to sex crime investigations, according to the complaint.
But it’s far worse than that, Barela says. “If a field officer is able to obtain prints from a stolen car, the APD forensic lab routinely runs those prints,” the complaint states. “If there is a match, a given officer will forward that information to the APD Auto Theft Unit or to one of its Impact Teams. From there, an officer will issue a warrant.
“In 2015, however, the city had failed to test 3,948 rape kits gathered in the course of sexual assault investigations.”
The city also places “Most Wanted” ads on billboards and in the Albuquerque Journal for property crime offenders, but does not do so for perpetrators of sexual violence, according to the complaint.
Barela seeks punitive damages for negligence, for 14th Amendment violations by revealing her personal information to bystanders which included her captor, and for unconstitutional municipal policy of failing to investigate and prosecute sex crimes with the same vigor as property crimes.
She is represented by Laura Schauer Ives, with Kennedy Kennedy & Ives.