AP NEWS

Lawsuit: Police bullet at New Mexico school harmed student

March 25, 2020 GMT

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — The family of a boy is suing a police officer who mistakenly fired his weapon inside a southern New Mexico middle school and nearly hit the student.

The family recently filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against officer Francisco Estrada and the Las Cruces Police Department, the Las Cruces Sun-News reports.

Authorities say Estrada accidentally fired his gun in December inside his office at Picacho Middle School, where he was assigned as a resource officer. Officials say Estrada was alone in his office and the gunshot struck no one.

But according to court documents, the bullet came within inches of striking a 13-year-old student. The lawsuit says the bullet came so close that the boy’s hearing was damaged.

The family alleges that the child has been too traumatized to return to school and is enrolled in the Las Cruces Public Schools’ program for homebound students.

Surveillance footage from the hallway also shows a bullet penetrating the wall of the principal’s office into a hallway just 43 seconds after three individuals passed the spot.

“The defendant intentionally violated basic firearm safety by pointing his gun at innocent children,” the family’s attorney Margaret Strickland told the Sun-News. “If we are going to allow armed police into our schools, we must hold them to a high standard, and that means accountability.”

The family is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Their lawsuit names both Estrada and the Las Cruces Police Department.

Las Cruces police spokesman Dan Trujillo says Estrada is still with the department. He says police couldn’t comment on pending litigation.