New Mexico police anal probe victim wins settlement

Back in November, John ran a series of stories — shocking accounts really — about out of control law enforcement officers in southern New Mexico with a proclivity for conducting anal exams and enemas on people for minor traffic infractions.

Specifically, on 2 January 2013, a man named David Eckert apparently rolled through a stop sign out of a Walmart parking lot. Upon stopping him, police later claimed Eckert appeared to be “clenching his buttocks.” And as a consequence they concluded he must have drugs up his anus. The cops found a cooperative deputy DA who obtained a search warrant.

Actual court documents in the "clenched buttocks" lawsuit, courtesy of KOB4.

Actual court documents in the “clenched buttocks” lawsuit, courtesy of KOB4.

Eckert’s horror unrolled like… well, a horror movie. Or perhaps the law enforcement “live action role play” (LARP) version of “Deliverance.”

As John recounted, the following was inflicted upon Mr. Eckert:

  1. They x-ray his abdomen, find nothing.
  2. They examine his anus digitally, find nothing.
  3. They examine his anus again digitally, find nothing.
  4. They give him an enema, make him defecate in front of the doctors and cops, examine his stool, and find nothing.
  5. They give him a second enema, find nothing.
  6. They give him a third enema, find nothing.
  7. They x-ray him again, find nothing.
  8. So what do they do next? Prepare him for surgery and give him a forced colonoscopy.  And find nothing.

Not surprisingly, the man is now suing the cops and the hospital.

In addition to the humiliating treatment inflicted on this man, the officers didn’t even obey the appallingly broad terms of the probable cause-absent search warrant. The warrant was valid only in Luna County (where Deming NM is located, and Gila Medical Center is in Grant County), and it expired at 10pm, whereas Mr. Eckert was being prepped for his unnecessary and forced colonoscopy surgery at 1am the following morning. (Hidalgo county’s involvement was related to Sheriff officers who jumped in on the sadism under-color-of-law action.)

This was also the case, by the way, where the cops used an un-certified canine to claim that the dog had detected drugs in Mr. Eckert’s car — and of course, after the search, none were found. The cops seized Eckert’s car and arrested him anyway.

To add insult to injury, Gila Medical Center attempted repeatedly to bill Mr. Eckert for the sadistic and medical malpractice inflicted upon him against his will.

Thus, also not surprisingly, Mr. Eckert just settled part of his case for a rather substantial settlement.

The same local TV station which broke the story back in November, KOB4 Albuquerque, posted a followup story.

Originally, Eckert had sued the City of Deming NM and Hidalgo County (both of whom had officers on the scene during Mr. Eckert’s repeated violating searches), as well as Gila Regional Medical center and its doctors, and the deputy district attorney who signed off on the warrants.

KOB’s “4 On Your Side” just learned that in December that Deming and Hidalgo settled for $650k and $950k respectively, for a total of $1.6 million.

Mr. Eckert’s lawsuit is still pending against the medical center, the doctors, and the deputy DA. It is thought this case might have to go to a jury court, particularly against the Gila Medical Center in Silver City and the doctors, because they don’t want to admit wrongdoing. This, despite the fact Gila was in fact the cops’ second choice; they tried to have it done at a Deming area hospital’s emergency room.

The lawsuit claims that Deming Police tried taking Eckert to an emergency room in Deming, but a doctor there refused to perform the anal cavity search citing it was “unethical.”

But physicians at the Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City agreed to perform the procedure and a few hours later, Eckert was admitted.

KOB4 also reported:

For the first time, Eckert is speaking out about the case through a written statement:

“I feel that I got some justice as I think the settlement shows they were wrong to do what they did to me. I truly hope that no one will be treated like this ever again. I felt very helpless and alone on that night. My family and I hope that people understand that I don’t want my face linked with jokes related to anal probing. For this reason, I asked my attorneys to issue this statement in the hopes that the media will respect my privacy.”

Attorneys for Hidalgo County have racked up nearly $55,000 in legal fees.

Sometimes there is still justice to be had. I for one am glad to have seen such a blatantly illegal sado-sexual assault to have been punished. Of course, the sad downside is it’s not those vile cops or their legal system enablers who will suffer the longer term consequences, but the taxpayers of Hidalgo County and Deming.

One thing remains certain: There are some vile, sadistic men out there yet who represent the absolute worst in law enforcement, and they give all the good cops a bad name.


Published professional writer and poet, Becca had a three decade career in technical writing and consulting before selling off most of her possessions in 2006 to go live at an ashram in India for 3 years. She loves literature (especially science fiction), technology and science, progressive politics, cool electronic gadgets, and perfecting Hatch green chile recipes. Fortunately for this last, Becca and her wife currently live in New Mexico. @BeccaMorn

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  • AnthonyLook

    What is it with New Mexico cops and space aliens and their anal probing? The settlement needs to be high enough to warrant that man’s humiliation and pain as well as give pause to sadistic bad apple police department members.

  • UFIA

    The settlement is far too low if it doesn’t mean a near complete defunding of the rapist sheriff’s departments. The voters in these counties need to feel some pain.

  • http://hunteratrandom.blogspot.com/ rmthunter

    One thing that should happen is that the names of the officers involved should receive wide publication — like, national news. And come to think of it, the names of the doctors as well. Let everyone know who the a$$holes are.

  • http://hunteratrandom.blogspot.com/ rmthunter

    Don’t hold your breath on criminal charges for the cops. As long as investigations and punishment for the excesses of the police are left to local authorities, the “bad apples” will be out on patrol again in short order. I’m thinking of the recent story from Florida in which a cop walked up and shot an epileptic teenager, who had been subdued was being held down by two other officers, in the head. The inquiry found “no evidence of wrongdoing.” This is way too common, in large part because the police, who are supposed to be protecting us, spend their time protecting each other. (And can someone explain to me why a police department needs a tank? Tampa has one — for “crowd control.” I’m beginning to think that our 2nd Amendment rights should include the right to own rocket launchers.) Quite honestly, too many local police departments in this country are becoming what I can only call terrorist organizations, with government backing.

    There’s a better chance of the hospital and doctors facing some consequences, especially if that case goes to a jury. And it should be more than being stripped of their licenses (no one has a “right” to practice medicine). They should be facing jail time.

  • phylius1988

    Legalize all drugs, now.

  • Steve Reid

    How many constitutions do we have to write, how many amendments do we have to add, how many laws do we have to pass, in order to restrain these little power junkies from violating the rights of citizens?

  • chris10858

    Please keep us updated on the story. I hope the police involved face criminal charges for abuse of power and the physicians/nurses involved are stripped of their right to practice medicine.

  • cole3244

    as long as they remain silent even the good cops will be seen as bad cops.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    It is my hope here in New Mexico that my nephew will be a good one — he recently completed training to be a state trooper. I do believe he has a good heart in the right place, and is not likely the sort to go power-mad.

    I think it helps that he was an infantry sergeant in the Army and served multiple tours in Iraq. The lad — man, actually — has experience in dealing calmly with difficult situations.

  • pappyvet

    Horror stories. Real ones. And yes there needs to be punishment. Very , very sad.

  • Whitewitch

    I can not even speak because the horror of this treatment of a sentient being is frightful, I can not grieve enough for the Mr. Kelly Thomas and his family.

    I can only say – “there but by the grace of the Goddess go I”.

    Peace…and out.

  • Whitewitch

    It would be fine to joke about this situation, save the fact that more and more people, from the homeless to the mentally ill to just those that get so nervous just interfacing with a cop that do act “froggy” are being killed, maimed, raped (yes this was rape) and abused. So we can not at this time laugh at horror.

  • Anonymous

    Sociopaths torture animals and the homeless because those victims are easier to silence. A drifter with no family has no one to defend them. I hope people don’t act surprised when these “policemen” strike again. They have shown what they are capable of.

  • mirror

    the problem is that the “good cops” aren’t calling out the “bad cops.” The ratio of blatantly lying wagon-circlers to truth-tellers is probably 10 to 1. This is why I’m going in the opposite direction from Anonymous above. I have no faith now that things are getting better in most areas of the country and no longer have the respect for our judicial system I once had. It protects the status quo, and as the status quo gets more twisted, so do the workings and outcomes of the judicial system.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    If you ever find a good cop let me know.

  • arcadesproject

    At Hullabaloo today there is a post about the death of Kelly Thomas. Mr. Thomas had schizophrenia and was homeless when he was murdered by police officers. The pictures were kind of hard to take but the acquittal of the perpetrators was harder.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Must’ve been a WordPress glitch. The post is as complete as I wrote it, I think.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Absolutely. Any invasive medical procedure has risk. Two unnecessary abdominal x-rays (cancer risk). General anesthetic (brain damage risk, heart attack, stroke, you name it).

    Even the colonoscopy itself isn’t without risk, since it can lead to infections, bleeding, and tearing — especially since there’s not much doubt that Mr. Eckert’s lower intestine was already distressed from the previous fruitless searches and because he surely did not have enough time to go through the normal evacuation protocol (the one where you’re not allowed to eat for most of a day, plus have to drink this vile liquid to clean your system entirely of fecal matter).

    Truly, I’m glad that at least Mr. Eckert has received some monetary compensation. But everyone involved (aside from the victim and the emergency room doctors who refused to inflict the search) behaved unbelievably without ethics or morality. Every one of them should lose their jobs and licenses, and the Pigs (yes, using that word on purpose) should be locked up.

  • cole3244

    i know there are good cops but you never hear from them when they could really make a difference, sad.

  • PeteWa

    the raping cops and doctors should be in jail.

  • Butch1

    Medicine certainly has changed in the past decade and a half. Since the advent of Nurse Practitioners, Physician’s Assistants, and others who have “special training,” it allows physicians to become lazier in their practices and make additional amounts of money without having to pay what they would for another physician with the comparable credentials they have in their fields of expertise.

    I’m sorry, but no GI tech has the same years of experience or knowledge that a physician has in that field no matter how well they may do the job. It isn’t that technical of an exam, though many things can happen and they can miss physical signs and disease of which they are not trained to diagnose.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    I got a flex. sigmoidoscopy in the last year and it was done by a GI tech who wasn’t a doctor but who specialized in that type of procedure.

    I can’t imagine getting one from someone who wasn’t specialized in it, and doing so under duress. Wow.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    I know it’s serious and awful, but this reads like a scene from “Reno: 911″.

    “Terry.. Terry, just put on the mask, you know that exploratory surgery is standard search procedure, and you’ll really want to be anesthetized for this.”

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    They’re doing it right now with filibustering the UI benefits extension and cutting food stamps. As if making poor people poorer helps anyone in any way.

  • Butch1

    They would not be qualified at all! They always call in a GI person to do that or they would go to surgery.

  • Monoceros Forth

    The reality of any situation has now been legally deemed irrelevant.

    Maybe this is an irrelevant thought of mine in response to this comment but…I’ve been lately considering that a whole range of right-wing notions about law and society are motivated by a common desire to reject practical realities in favor of abstract principles that are supposed to trump real events. So, for example, the practical desire of not wanting poor citizens to starve is to be rejected in favor of the abstract (and, frankly, totally unreal) principle that it’s more important to build up the citizens’ “character” and fight “dependency” and other such lofty-sounding ideals that are supposed to matter more than the reality of poverty and starvation.

    I see the same general notion at work here. The practical reality is that cops are shooting or tasing or beating helpless men to death. But this is supposed to matter less than the principle that cops’ lives are worth more than anyone else’s.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Which is really the basis of all the ‘stand your ground’ laws. Essentially granting anyone with a gun the same kind of protection. The reality of any situation has now been legally deemed irrelevant. What the shooter perceived has become the only consideration when it comes to any investigation, or the unlikely event of a trial.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    That time at night, I can’t imagine it was anyone other than the ER physician. Which would not be entirely unqualified. The average ER physician probably does more colonoscopies/sigmoidoscopies, or similar procedures, than the average full-time gastroenterologist. But you’re right, the risks of bleeding and infection are extremely high, and no matter how you want to look at it, forcing someone to undergo such a procedure against their will is also an additional risk for complications.

  • Monoceros Forth

    So true. “I feared my life was in danger,” or, “I was compelled to protect my fellow cops,” seems to have become the all-excusing explanation; what actually happened now matters less than what was going through the murderous cop’s fevered imagination. How far do you take that? “Your honor, I genuinely thought he was an alien wearing a human skin. I had to shoot him just like I had to shoot those invisible elves last year.”

  • bkmn

    Agree completely.

    I was amazed that they did a colonoscopy at 1am in the morning. Did they call in staff to perform the procedure or did someone who is not certified in the procedure perform it? Calling in staff would have cost a lot of money. Having unqualified personnel perform the procedure should cost them even more. A perforated colon can bleed fast, possibly causing death if not immediately treated.

  • Anonymous

    After the proliferation of police acquittals despite ample evidence, like the Kelly Thomas trial, this is a silver lining. It gives me hope that we are moving in the right direction again. We cannot live in a society where a vocal minority of abusers succeed in justifying their crimes to an apathetic majority.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    The thin blue line always seems to trump the public good.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    I’m glad he got a settlement, but I don’t think justice will actually be served until everyone involved in perpetrating this repeated rape are behind bars and forced to register as sex offenders for the remainder of their days. At the very least the doctors and nurses at the hospital should have their licenses to practice revoked, and the cops should be fired. If they don’t face specific and direct punishment, this is just going to happen again to someone else.

  • cole3244

    good cops need to start calling out bad cops for their own good and the public’s good.

  • ferd

    “It’s your hope that . . .” what? Post just ends.

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