DENVER (KDVR) — A Southern Colorado man filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Las Animas County Sheriff’s Office, the county, the sheriff, the undersheriff and two deputies over a traffic stop that happened last November.
Kenneth Espinoza was following his son Nathaniel to the shop on Nov. 29, 2022, to get his truck serviced when his son was pulled over by Las Animas County Deputy Mikhail Noel. Espinoza pulled up behind the scene when he is confronted by Lt. Henry Trujillo.
Trujillo repeatedly asked Espinoza to leave the scene, but Espinoza refuses because his son is his ride home from the shop. The argument escalated and Deputy Noel came over to Espinoza’s truck, and asked him to leave. When Espinoza put his truck in drive to leave, Noel can be heard commanding Espinoza to stay and grabbed the truck door handle. Noel pulled out his gun and pointed it at Espinoza.
Espinoza is eventually pulled out of his truck and pushed into the back of a sheriff’s office cruiser. He is eventually shocked with a Taser stun gun by deputies, including a probe that was lodged in his gum, according to Espinoza’s attorney Kevin Mehr.
“The actions of this department are unacceptable,” Mehr said during a news conference announcing the lawsuit in Denver on Tuesday. “He was parked legally off the road so there was no reason, no legal justification for them to make him move.”
Espinoza was never charged by the District Attorney in this case. Las Animas County Sheriff Derek Navarette tells the Problem Solvers an internal investigation is being conducted by an outside agency and both deputies have been placed on administrative leave.
Navarette did not respond when asked which agency is conducting the investigation and whether the leave was paid or unpaid.
“I can still see them pointing the gun at my father and just watching time stop,” Nathaniel Espinoza said. “Just feeling everything leave my body. That’s where I would say the value of life was shown to me. You know. It’s not fair. We were just taking his car to the shop. We weren’t there to bother nobody.”
The Problem Solvers confirmed Lt. Trujillo has a criminal history in the county, including harassment and disorderly conduct charges.