Sheriff’s office faces lawsuit

Couple claim excessive force, negligent training during traffic stop

A civil-rights lawsuit claims that “incompetent” and “heavily armed” deputies have used “excessive force” under Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell’s direct supervision.

Filed on Monday, June 23, the 10-page lawsuit requested a jury trial and judgment against Spruell, Deputy Adam Alcon, former Deputy Sgt. Darrin Harper, the sheriff’s office and Montezuma County. The complaint alleges that Jonathan Boyd and Jami Larson’s Fourth and 14th Amendment rights were violated in connection to a traffic stop for failure to display a valid tag on June 10, 2013.

“The lawsuit was filed in Montezuma County District Court,” said Durango attorney Douglas Reynolds, who represents the couple. “We stand by the assertions that are contained in the complaint, and we hope to resolve it soon.”

The lawsuit claims the plaintiffs’ civil rights were violated through the use of excessive force, unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution. It also alleges a failure to train and supervise deputies as well as reckless and negligent hiring practices.

According to the complaint, Alcon wrestled Larson to the ground three times after the traffic stop and held Boyd at gunpoint before both were handcuffed. After being taken to the jail, Larson and Boyd waited more than 15 and 12 hours, respectively, before being processed and booked, according to the suit.

All charges – resisting arrest, obstructing governmental operations, operating an uninsured motor vehicle and failure to display valid registration – filed against Larson, and all charges – obstructing governmental operations and possession of a weapon by a previous offender – filed against Boyd were dismissed by District Attorney Will Furse on June 12, 2013.

Serving as Alcon’s supervisor, Harper, who was fired last summer, encouraged officers to utilize excessive force and violate the plaintiffs’ civil and constitutional rights under Spruell’s command, the lawsuit alleges.

Larson and Boyd requested a $60,000 settlement in February. The complaint also alleges the plaintiffs have been subjected to frequent and baseless police contacts, stops and questioning. The plaintiffs say they believe they have intentionally been harassed and intimidated with the purpose of discouraging them from filing the lawsuit.

Sheriff officials have denied that the plaintiffs’ civil rights were violated. Spruell did not to respond to an email last week seeking comment.