ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - A federal judge has dealt a major legal blow to a former Sandoval County sheriff's deputy who's suing her then-bosses over a shootout with a burglar that killed her partner.
Theresa Moriarty and her partner, Sgt. Joe Harris, were school resource officers in July 2009 when they were sent on a stakeout in the Jemez Mountains to capture an elusive local burglar known as the Cookie Bandit and later identified as Joseph Burgess.
"She agreed to this assignment over the summer when the schools were closed but without the information that she was in fact engaging on a very dangerous undercover assignment after somebody known to use violence against law enforcement," Cammie Nichols, her attorney, told KRQE News 13.
Nichols said sheriff's officials sent them into the dangerous situation unprepared without backup and the proper means to call for help. She said it also adds to the fact that they should not have been on such a dangerous assignment.
"She's not disputing that she was a certified law enforcement officer," Nichols continued. "However, at that point in her life and in her career she had joined Sandoval County specifically to do school resource work."
Still, the federal judge dismissed the claim and noted the two had prior police background training with weapons and procedures. Moriarty and her attorney plan to challenge the federal judge's decision.
"She felt it was critical to give the situation light, voice, to let the public know what happened," Nichols added, "and to try to encourage law enforcement to take notice of the mistakes made in this instance in the egregious misconduct of her supervisors and to prevent that from happening again."
The federal judge sent other portions of the lawsuit to state District Court. KRQE News 13 tried to contact former Sheriff John Paul Trujillo and others connected to the lawsuit.
Trujillo referred News 13 to his attorney.
It turned out Burgess was a fugitive from a 1972 double murder in Canada and suspected in the killing of another couple in California.
He was handcuffed after a struggle in a remote cabin but managed to pull a pistol from his waistband, authorities said at the time. He then shot Harris who in turn shot and killed Burgess.
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