A 2019 dispute between a Silver City police officer and Grant County Detention Center officers over whether a suspect needed medical treatment has resulted in a lawsuit by the police officer against a long list of officials, including Grant County commissioners, Detention Center Director Michael Carillo and Deputy Administrator Joseph Andazola, as well as the individual jail officers involved in the incident.
In an official complaint filed June 16 by attorneys for Silver City Police Officer Kyle Spurgeon, Spurgeon claims he was falsely imprisoned against his will on July 17, 2019, by detention officer Philip Ice and medical staff member Patricia Castillo.
After he brought in a suspect for booking, Castillo told Spurgeon that they “would not accept the arrestee, and that he needed to be medically cleared by Gila [Regional Medical Center],” according to Spurgeon’s lapel video.
Spurgeon responded that the suspect had refused medical treatment when he was at the hospital having his blood alcohol level tested, but when asked by Andazola to provide either refusal paperwork or a medical release from the hospital, Spurgeon said he didn’t have to provide paperwork, according to Aujanae Gomez’s report. Reports from Officer Gomez, however, stated that the suspect said he was open to medical treatment.
In his report, Andazola wrote, “I did call the jail and spoke to Health Services Administrator RN Patricia Castillo, who stated that the family of the arrestee called and gave a rundown of the many medical issues the arrestee suffers from. RN Castillo also stated that the arrestee’s intoxication, along with his medical issues, was very concerning, and he needed to go to the hospital and get a clearance.”
After refusing to accept the suspect, Castillo and Ice allegedly exited the booking area and locked the door behind them, leaving Spurgeon and the suspect locked inside together, Spurgeon’s complaint says.
According to the complaint, Spurgeon repeatedly asked, “Let me out, guys. Let me out. Let me out.”
“This appears to be an actual practice of the jail — to lock police officers in the booking area with arrestees,” said Adam Flores, Spurgeon’s attorney, of Ives and Flores. “Kyle isn’t the only person to be locked in a cell, either. Two other Silver City police sergeants have also been locked in a cell.”
While Spurgeon was stuck in the cell, he used his cellphone to contact Silver City Police Sgt. Timothy Tavizon, and informed him that he was being held against his will, according to the complaint.
Spurgeon claims he was held for nearly 45 minutes, during which he also contacted Grant County Detention Center Lt. Michael Bonenfant and then-Assistant District Attorney Norman Wheeler.
Tavizon called Silver City Police Chief Fred Portillo to relay the news that Spurgeon was being held at the detention center against his will. According to the complaint, Portillo called Mike Carillo, director of the Grant County Detention Center, and told him to release Spurgeon, without results.
The Daily Press contacted Carillo, who said he was unable to comment on the situation.
According to the complaint, Bonenfant told Spurgeon that the arrestee needed to be returned to the hospital to sign refusal paperwork. Spurgeon responded, “Then they need to take him. This has nothing to do with me. This is illegal. I want out of here.”
Spurgeon’s complaint claims that Bonenfant and Andazola then entered the locked booking area as a “show of force,” and asked, “What’s the problem?”
After Spurgeon threatened false imprisonment charges, according to the complaint, Andazola became angry, and approached within 2 feet of him in an “aggressive and menacing” manner, saying, “Try me.”
According to Andazola’s report, Spurgeon finally agreed to take the arrestee to the hospital.
“I asked Officer Spurgeon if we were all good,” Andazola said. “Officer Spurgeon stated, ‘Well, I am taking him to the hospital, even though you’re breaking state law.’”
“Officer Spurgeon stated that we could not refuse to let him leave,” Andazola said in his report. “We did not do that. We asked that he take his arrestee to the hospital, or he could leave the facility with his arrestee.”
“The arrestee later returned to our facility from GRMC with Sergeant Arredondo of SCPD, and was allowed entry after medical received the clearance,” Ice wrote in his report. “The lieutenant stayed present while all intake paperwork was completed, and Sergeant Arredondo exited without incident.”
Spurgeon’s attorneys argue that the detention center’s policy, as well as the actions of the staff who held Spurgeon, “violated Officer Spurgeon’s right to be free from an unreasonable seizure within the meaning of Article II, Section 10 of the New Mexico Constitution.”
They are suing for compensation to “make Spurgeon whole,” and for an admission by the detention center that their policy of locking law enforcement officers in the facility is unconstitutional, according to the complaint filed by Ives and Flores.
Defense attorneys Mynatt Martinez Springer declined comment.