A Santa Fe couple has sued the city, the police department and a shoplifting suspect who escaped from police custody and broke into their home in 2017 before physically assaulting them.
The lawsuit, filed this week in state District Court by lawyers for Adrianna and Manuel Chavez, alleges police acted negligently on Oct. 4, 2017, when they left a handcuffed Ryan Martinez alone in an interview room at police headquarters on Santa Fe’s south side. He had been arrested on suspicion of theft at Home Depot.
A police report said Martinez put a chair on top of a table, broke through a ceiling panel and escaped through an office. He is accused of later injuring Manuel Chavez after being discovered burglarizing the couple’s home in a south-side residential subdivision.
A spokesman said the police department does not comment on pending litigation.
Martinez, now 30, is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, as are Officer Jacquann Matherson, who arrested the suspect at the Home Depot, and Officer Jacob Martinez, who left the suspect alone in the interview room.
The lawsuit claims police had improperly handcuffed the suspect’s hands in front of his body rather than behind.
A short time after Martinez’s escape from police headquarters, according to the lawsuit, the Chavez couple returned home from work to find Ryan Martinez inside their home, still handcuffed, carrying Adrianna’s jewelry box.
The intruder ran and knocked Adrianna down at the front door, and when Manuel tried to stop him, the two men fought in the front driveway, the lawsuit states. Ryan Martinez allegedly caused Manuel’s face to hit the concrete driveway, knocking out three of his teeth before escaping, the lawsuit says.
Police eventually found and arrested Martinez later that night in an arroyo near the Santa Fe Place mall. He was later sentenced to 4½ years probation and ordered to an inpatient substance abuse program.
The lawsuit claims the police department did not preserve officers’ body camera and dash camera video footage from the case.
Officer Jacob Martinez wrote in a 2017 affidavit that he had allowed the suspect to use his cellphone while in the interview room at police headquarters. After one or two minutes, the officer said, he returned to the room to find the suspect “had stacked a chair on the table and jumped up into the roof.”
Both officers have been accused of improper actions in other cases.
In 2018, a Santa Fe County jury awarded an elderly woman more than $1.2 million for an April 2016 incident in which the driver of a stolen car being chased at high speed by Officer Martinez crashed into hers, severely injuring her. The woman’s attorney argued the officer had acted recklessly and the jury found the police department partly responsible.
Matherson was previously accused of T-boning a Jeep, badly injuring two men, in February 2016, prompting a $300,000 payout from the city.
Officer Martinez still works for the police department; Matherson has since resigned.