NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Cell phone and police video of a Native American man being tased by a park ranger at the Petroglyph National Monument gained national attention. Now, the man who got tased is suing, claiming his religious freedom was violated.
Video of a Petroglyph National Monument park ranger tasing Navajo and Oneida Marine veteran Darrell House shocked Indigenous communities across the nation. Now, House filed a lawsuit for damages.
Natali Segovia is the Legal Director at Water Protector Legal Collective. She shared, “It’s the physical and the emotional and psychological (damages). And also, this is representative of what has happened to indigenous peoples being policed on ancestral and sacred lands for centuries.”
On December 27, 2020, House was hiking with his sister and dog when they stepped off the trail, saying they were socially distancing from other hikers. A ranger told him to get back on the designated path, and House said he complied with those orders. However, when the ranger began asking him for identification, House refused to answer, eventually giving a fake name.
Things then escalated, and the ranger tased House. Shortly after the incident, House was diagnosed with acute PTSD. His attorneys claimed this use of force was not justified and excessive.
Attorney Jeffrey Haas explained, “This situation, Darrell House was not a threat to anybody. It wasn’t a threat to the officer, he wasn’t a threat to the property, and I think if there had been any sensitivity shown to who he was, or why he was there, this incident never would have escalated.”
An internal affairs investigation from the National Park Service (NPS) found that the officer’s actions were consistent with agency policy and appropriate for the circumstances. Defendants named in the case include the National Park Service, the City of Albuquerque, and several individuals.
The lawsuit is requesting that the NPS review its policies and training “to recognize the rights, particularly of Indigenous people, to pray on sacred land and on sacred territory, and to be sensitive to that and the history of that,” said Haas.
Segovia said, “This is also why the Department of Interior is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, because it stems all the way from the federal government, with the US Department of Interior as ultimately responsible also for the National Park Service.”
House was never arrested, but he was given three citations by the federal park ranger for failure to comply, giving false information, and being off trail.
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KRQE reached out to the NPS, but they will not comment on ongoing lawsuits.