RIO RANCHO, N.M. (KRQE) - Newly obtained lapel camera video shows the moments an off-duty New Mexico State Police officer is accused of battering a man, and what that accused officer had to say in his defense.
Joe Harris Junior is charged with battery and disorderly conduct for a July incident where Harris is said to have served a man civil court paperwork.
A New Mexico State Police officer, Harris is accused of pushing the man he was serving court papers to.
In lapel camera video recordings, Harris told the investigating officer that the victim was the aggressor in the incident. However, several witnesses say they saw it differently.
The incident happened on Tuesday morning, July 17, 2018 at the French’s Funerals and Cremations business on Unser in northeast Rio Rancho.
Surveillance cameras inside the business captured audio of the incident, which occurred off camera.
In the footage recorded shortly after the incident, the victim can be heard explaining to the witnesses that he recognized Harris Jr. as a police officer, which came as a surprise to at least one witness.
“He's a cop?" a witness asked incredulously.
“Yeah, he's a cop," said the victim. “You saw him push me right?"
“He can't do that!" exclaimed the witnesses.
“Yeah, he's a cop, I buried his dad," said the victim, recognizing Harris Jr. as the son of slain Sandoval County Sheriff’s Deputy Joe Harris Sr.
Before the incident, surveillance video at the French’s location on Golf Course in Albuquerque captured Harris in dressed down clothing, looking for a specific man.
In an interview with the investigating officer, Harris said, “I had some civil documents I was asked to serve as a third party, not involved.”
Harris eventually found the man he was looking for at French’s Rio Rancho location. Harris told the investigating officer that the victim came at him as he attempted to give him the paperwork.
“As he walked towards me, he was in an approaching, threatening manner,” said Harris.
Harris told the officer that the victim had an “aggressive demeanor” and “a look on his face” as he was approaching.
“So I have the documents in my right hand and I put them up and ... I put the papers in his chest as he's walking towards me and I told him, I said, ‘you've been served, *****,’” said Harris.
However, witnesses told Rio Rancho Police that Harris was the aggressor.
“He had those papers and went like that,” said one witness, while using their hand in a striking motion. “And that's when I saw (the victim) go back because he was pushed."
A second witnesses agreed.
“To put it very frankly, looked like he was ready for a fight," said the second witness of Harris.
The victim told police he felt attacked.
“I stuck my hand out to get the paper and he went through my hand and hit me in my chest and said, 'you've been served, *****.”
In lapel camera recordings, one of the witnesses broke down telling police what happened.
“Because you just don't know, people carry guns and stuff, I just didn't want anything to happen to us,” said the witness.
The witnesses’ stories ultimately led police to charge Harris. As an officer told Harris of the charges that were going to be filed, Harris responded by asking if the officer was “serious.”
Harris was arraigned in the case Wednesday in Rio Rancho Municipal Court, as both of the charges are misdemeanors.
New Mexico State Police says Harris will remain on paid leave while the department investigates the case internally.
According to court records, the civil case that Harris was serving papers for appears to have been dropped.