ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque woman can move forward with her civil rights lawsuit against New Mexico State Police nearly seven years after she fled gunshots fired by officers. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the excessive force claims against police in her case stand, even though she got away.
The attorney for Roxanne Torres is calling this decision a victory for the Constitution and said police never should have made Torres a target.
“Hopefully this will protect all of us in the future from this type of reprehensible conduct,” Attorney Eric Dixon stated. “She is a very peaceful woman. She didn’t deserve to be shot in the back.”
In July 2014, court documents say NMSP approached Torres while she was standing near a vehicle at an apartment complex off I-25 and San Mateo. The officers had been trying to serve a warrant to another woman. Torres claims she didn’t know the two in dark tactical gear were officers and thought they were trying to carjack her so she got in the car and sped away, allegedly driving toward a female officer.
Torres’ attorney says two NMSP officers fired 13 shots at the vehicle, two of which hit Torres in the back as she drove away. She then crashed near Jefferson and Ellison, reportedly stole a car, then drove 75 miles to a Grants hospital where she was treated, then flown back to Albuquerque and arrested.
Torres later sued NMSP, seeking damages and claiming excessive force in violation of her Fourth Amendment rights, which bar unreasonable search and seizure. However, the U.S. District Court said the shooting was not a seizure and negates an excessive force claim because Torres fled, and the 10th Circuit upheld the decision.
Then in October of last year, the U.S. Supreme Court heard this case and Thursday overruled the 10th Circuit.
“The Supreme Court ruled that looking back into the history of the Fourth Amendment that a mere touching is enough for a seizure to take place,” Dixon explained.
After the 2014 shooting, then-NMSP chief Pete Kassetas wouldn’t comment on the incident, but said in summary, that Torres’s vehicle was a danger to police when she fled because one of his officers was in the direct path of the vehicle. On Thursday, NMSP again said it would not respond to pending litigation. Torres did plead no contest to charges of fleeing police, assaulting a police officer, and stealing a car.