Two Colorado sheriff's deputies, Deputy Mikhail Noel and Lt. Henry Trujillo have been terminated following an investigation that revealed their unjustified repeated use of tasers against Kenneth Espinoza, including on his lower lip.
The events being investigated began when Espinoza's son was pulled over on Nov. 29, 2022 for a traffic stop while his father was driving behind him. When Espinoza pulled off the road to support his son, Trujillo and Noel ordered him to leave.
When Espinoza initially refused and began to drive away, Noel pointed his gun at him, alleging that Espinoza attempted to strike him with his truck. According to the report, Espinoza was subsequently handcuffed, informed he was under arrest, and Tasered while being taken to the patrol car.
The Las Animas County Sheriff's office confirmed the terminations, citing multiple policy violations, including the inappropriate use of a taser on Espinoza while he was handcuffed and providing inaccurate reports of the incident.
Espinoza did not attempt to strike Noel with his truck, and he did not actively use any force against the deputies, according to the investigation findings. Undersheriff Reynaldo Santistevan recommended the termination of both deputies after reviewing body camera footage and the investigative report, stating that they failed to de-escalate the situation and made it worse.
Another recommendation leading the investigation for the criminal probe alleged that Noel and Trujillo's actions escalated the use of excessive force which resulted in bodily injury alongside a false arrest. However, it is unclear whether a criminal investigation has been initiated at this time.
Attorney Kevin Mehr, representing Espinoza in lawsuits against the deputies and the sheriff's office, described the situation as "the most outrageous thing" he had ever seen due to the apparent existence of excessive and unlawful force.
According to reports, Trujillo has a history of criminal convictions, restraining orders and complaints against him.
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