Dec. 2-A former Rio Arriba County sheriff's deputy charged with child abuse and other crimes after he struck a developmentally disabled high school student with an electronic weapon in 2019 has agreed never to work in law enforcement again as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, his lawyer said Thursday.
Jeremy Barnes pleaded no contest to a single count of false imprisonment Thursday in Tierra Amarilla as part of a plea agreement that requires him to relinquish any law enforcement certification and not seek, obtain or have employment in any law enforcement position for the rest of his life, according to the state Attorney General's Office, which investigated and prosecuted the case.
"There is no excuse for a public officer to abuse his power and use unnecessary force against a child whom he was employed to protect, and this incident further proves the need for law enforcement sensitivity and de-escalation training," Attorney General Hector Balderas said in an email sent by a spokeswoman.
Barnes, 37, faces up to 18 months incarceration at his sentencing, which is scheduled to be held Jan. 5.
His exact sentence will be left up to state District Judge Jason Lidyard, who is presiding over the case, according to Barnes' defense attorney, Tom Clark.
Clark declined to comment further, saying he would reserve his remarks for Barnes' sentencing hearing.
The Attorney General's Office charged Barnes with child abuse, false imprisonment, aggravated battery and violation of ethical principals of public service after he was seen on a widely circulated video deploying a stun gun on a then-15-year-old boy multiple times during an altercation at Española Valley High School in May 2019.
Had Barnes been convicted on all counts with which he was charged, he would have faced a maximum sentence of more than five years in prison.
The video of Barnes firing his electronic weapon at Abram Martinez showed the deputy enter a room where school security staff were questioning the boy, who had been detained on suspicion of drug activity.
Barnes wrote in his report Martinez had been verbally uncooperative and would not allow security staff to search him.
While he was trying to restrain the boy after commanding him to stand up, the report said, the student "pulled away with force" then pushed Barnes away with a clenched fist and hit a security guard with a closed fist.
That prompted a struggle, during which Barnes said, "I'm going to [expletive] tase you," and then immediately fired the device into the boy's chest at close range, sending him to the floor, face down. The security guard placed his knee on the back of the boy's neck. Barnes administered two additional shocks as the boy lay screaming on the floor.
"Barnes tased the student multiple times, and subsequently took the student into custody despite a juvenile probation officer telling him that insufficient grounds existed to do so, and despite the presence of the student's mother on scene," according to the Attorney General's Office statement. "At the time of the incident, Barnes was neither properly certified as a law enforcement officer nor was he current on the training necessary to carry and use a Taser."
Rio Arriba County Sheriff's Office Maj. Lorenzo Aguilar said Thursday the agency's current officers are up-to-date on weapons training, although several of the agency's deputies aren't yet certified law enforcement officers because they were hired in-between sessions of the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy.
Three of the agency's 24 officers aren't yet certified but are "on active patrol" and carry weapons, wear uniforms, drive marked police units and are allowed to make arrests, according to Aguilar. Those officers undergo "field training" provided by fellow sheriff's deputies - some of whom are instructors at the Law Enforcement Academy - and are not allowed to handle serious crimes such as domestic violence or homicide before they are certified, Aguilar said.
Barnes was fired in September 2019, months after the incident and just a week ahead of an announcement by the Attorney General's Office it was pursuing charges against him.
He had been hired by Rio Arriba County in October 2018 after a three-year absence from law enforcement. His history with police departments in Grants and Clayton included multiple accusations of aggressive behavior, according to previous reports.
Martinez - who later received a $1.3 million settlement from Rio Arriba County and the Española school district to settle his civil suit over the matter - is awaiting trial on a charge of first-degree murder in connection with the 2021 shooting death of 19-year-old Isaiah Herrera in Nambé.