SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico Department of Public Safety is being sued by a Grants family who claims officers used excessive force, disrupting a birthday party, while searching their neighborhood last summer for an escaped prisoner.

Lawyer Adam Flores, who is representing the family, said his clients were victims of a massive, misguided show of police power. He detailed the event in a lawsuit filed last week in state district court, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported .

“As manned and unmanned aircraft combed the skies, officers of the New Mexico State Police — some clad in olive combat fatigues and outfitted with high-powered assault rifles — drove their Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck (“Bearcat”) through the neighborhoods of Grants conducting a house-to-house search for the escapee,” Flores wrote.

The lawsuit claims officers entered the subdivision where Rueben Olveda was hosting a barbecue in celebration of his 21st birthday in June.

The people in Olveda’s home were ordered outside while officers pointed guns at them. They were handcuffed, frisked for weapons and held in hot patrol units for an hour or more while officers ransacked the home, according to the complaint.

The family also claimed that multiple officers trained their weapons on a 9-year-old girl who was holding an infant.

The complaint seeks damages for each of the adults and children at the home during the raid.

State police declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Police recaptured the prisoner several days later. He had no connection to the family.

The plaintiffs say officers asked them almost nothing about the escaped prisoner but ran criminal background checks on them.

Their lawsuit claims officers told a 13-year-old girl she was being detained so police could investigate her immigration status and threatened to call child protective services on a woman who returned after leaving her two children at the home with family members while she went to the store.

According to the complaint, one officer called the decision to raid the home “a wild goose chase” while others allegedly minimized the incident.

The family contends that authorities failed to preserve footage from their dash cameras and from belt tape recordings, thereby concealing their conduct at the scene.


Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com