Lawsuit accuses Hobbs police of wrongful arrests
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Three New Mexico police officers have been named in a federal lawsuit that claims they wrongfully detained a man as he stood near a parked car, and arresting another after he asked officers what they were doing as they interrupted their family gathering.
The family believes race was a factor in police’s decision to approach the men in Hobbs, their attorney said.
The lawsuit stemming from a June 28 encounter was filed earlier this week on behalf of Shamus Wright and his nephew Kentoine Penman. Both men are African-American, from Hobbs, and part of a family that had been planning an annual reunion set for the next day in the small New Mexico city near the Texas border, according to their attorney, Joseph Kennedy.
His law firm in Albuquerque has filed multiple lawsuits against Hobbs police, including a pending class action lawsuit in state court that raises concerns over “humiliating” unconstitutional stops and arrests that has left some residents fearful of crossing public streets. Both Penman and Wright are also plaintiffs in that case.
Kennedy said the firm would continue to pursue litigation against police each time concerns about unconstitutional policing emerge.
“We have zero tolerance for this,” Kennedy said.
A Hobbs police spokesman and city attorney did not return messages requesting comment.
According to the federal lawsuit, they had obtained city permits for their annual family reunion in June to hold a block party and close off part of the street, where Penman had been standing when an officer first approached him and another relative, according to their lawsuit.
Kennedy described the road as a residential street, and not a heavily trafficked thruway.
Officer Juan Jaimes had approached the men on grounds they were standing in a roadway, instead of the sidewalk, and asked Penman for his identification, according to the lawsuit. Officers Kevin Martinez and Ruben Gastelum also are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Penman provided his identification to the officers, but Wright — who had asked police why they were questioning his nephew — refused, prompting officers to charge him with concealing his identity, as well resisting, evading and obstructing an officer.
The men are seeking attorneys’ fees and an unspecified sum for damages.