Couple accuses Torrance Co. Sheriff’s Office for ‘unlawful detention’

New Mexico

A lawsuit claims Torrance County Sheriff’s deputies were harassing a couple by ‘detaining’ them and forcing them to sit outside in the hot sun for hours, but lapel video paints a different picture of what happened. 

On June 27, 2018, Torrance County deputies were responding to reports of nearly a dozen shots fired in an Edgewood neighborhood. When deputies arrived, a neighbor told them where he believed the shots were coming from. 

“We walked through the yard and we walked back, and that’s when, ‘pow pow pow pow pow,” said the neighbor in lapel video. 

The neighbor pointed them to the home of Christopher Carmickle and Tammy Lidyard. The couple told police that supposed gunfire was actually ‘firecrackers,’ and it wasn’t coming from their property.

However, deputies still asked to search their property for firearms or shell casings. According to the criminal complaint, Carmickle told deputies “not without a warrant.”

According to the criminal complaint, the deputy told the couple applying for a warrant would take several hours and they would have to leave the property while he waited and searched. 

At that point, Carmickle accused the deputy of harassing him.

Carmickle: “Why are we being harassed?”
Officer: “You’re not being harassed.” 
Carmickle: “You’re harassing me.”
Officer: “In a minute, you’re about to be arrested.”

According to the lawsuit, the couple claims deputies detained them and made them and their toddler stay “outside in the heat for approximately five hours without food, water, or a place to rest.”

However, police lapel video does show officers offered to let the couple leave the property if they could search the car they were leaving in beforehand. 

“We’re giving you the option to take a car, but you took the route of not taking a vehicle so now you guys are going to stand out here with your baby,” said the officer. 

Deputies are also seen on lapel video escorting the couple into the home and allowing Lidyard to gather items for her baby.

Deputies did get a search warrant and searched the property for weapons and shell casings. According to the criminal complaint, the deputy found a Bersa Thunder .380 and seized it for evidence. The lawsuit claims they had no “probable cause to” to do that because there was no “evidence of any crime.”

The lawsuit also claims that the deputies were “retaliating” against the couple because of a previous case and lawsuit they were involved in. 

“It’s all because of the robbery, because the report didn’t get done,” said Carmickle in recorded police audio.

In January 2017, Debbie Zeutzuis was allegedly killed by two local teens when she caught them burglarizing her home. 

Carmickle claims he was also a victim of the teen’s crime spree, and he told police about the teens months earlier. He claims, had deputies acted, the murder could have been prevented. 

Carmickle repeatedly told deputies in lapel video that he brought a lawsuit against them for that case and “won $95,000.”

However, KRQE News 13 found no record of such a lawsuit. 

The lawsuit also claims the sheriff’s office violated New Mexico IPRA laws for failing to turn over police lapel video of the incident to the couple and their lawyer. 

The couple claims the sheriff’s office still has not returned their gun seized during the search. They have since moved out of Torrance County.

No criminal charges were filed against the couple in this case. 

The Torrance County Sheriff’s Office would not comment on this lawsuit.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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