PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -A federal lawsuit has been filed against a former Pueblo police officer and the police chief. The lawsuit accuses the chief of failing to take action against an officer who tased a woman while trying to arrest her last year.
The lawyer representing Cristy Gonzales wants accountability, saying the Pueblo police officer tased her for no apparent reason.
Mehr said in a press release that under Colorado state law, Officer Villanueva should have been fired or at least decertified for a year. But he claims Chief Noeller didn’t do that. In fact, he claims that in an annual report to the Attorney General,Villanueva had not been subject to a ‘disqualifying incident.’
According to a federal lawsuit, the body cam footage shows Pueblo officer Bennie Villanueva and another officer approach Gonzales on suspicion of driving a stolen Toyota Tacoma. Gonzales lawyer, Kevin Mehr, claims as they approached her, she was already out of the truck.
Mehr said the truck had just run out of gas and that she was attempting to stop it. On the body cam footage, Officer Villanueva is heard saying “She’s running” into his police radio.
The federal lawsuit alleges that Gonzales was not running and was standing still with her hands up. The federal complaint says that Officer Villanueva discharged his taser into her back even though she was complying with officers.
Gonzales's lawyer said she continues to have trouble using her right hand since the incident.
"Just physically, it's still affecting her ability to write. She has a lot of numbness in her hands, and that's kind of a neurological effect," Mehr said .
Part of the federal lawsuit includes what appears to be a document from Pueblo police where an internal investigation found that Villanueva appeared to use a taser "for no apparent reason." The document said that the use of weapon was a violation of department policy. In internal report, it also said Villanueva did not have intent to harm or deliver punishment.Rather it appeared the incident was a result of the officers reaction to a highly stressful call for service after having been away from patrol duty work for several years.The officer was ordered to complete training on de-escalation and the operation of a taser, according to the document.
The Pueblo County Sheriff's Office said according to their jail booking records Gonzales was arrested for auto theft and identity theft the same day the incident happened.
Pueblo police said that the officer involved in this incident retired last month.
KRDO13 reached out to the Pueblo police chief directly but he says due to pending litigation he can't comment on this case.
KRDO13 also reached out to the states POST board. They did not get back to us by our deadline.