Deputy in school tasing incident was forced to resign from Clayton police

Rio Arriba County Deputy Jeremy Barnes, whose hand appears in the lower left corner of this image from video provided by the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office, fires a stun gun at Española Valley High School last month.

A Rio Arriba County sheriff’s deputy facing criticism for tasing a student at Española Valley High School last month was forced to resign from the Clayton Police Department in 2015, a year after he was fired from the police force in Grants.

Jeremy Barnes also faced a lawsuit in 2016 accusing him and other Grants officers of excessive use of force with a Taser during an arrest in 2013. The case initially was filed in state District Court but was moved to federal court in 2017 and was settled in 2018, records show.

The new details in Barnes’ troubled law enforcement career emerged this week after the mother of the 15-year-old boy he tased May 10 at Española Valley High, a student in the district’s special-education program, filed a lawsuit against Rio Arriba County commissioners.

The woman’s suit accuses Barnes of assault, battery and false imprisonment of her son and accuses the county of negligent hiring practices and failure to properly train deputies how to work in a school setting with students who have disabilities.

Barnes, 33, who was hired by the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office in October, remains on active duty amid an internal investigation into his actions.

According to his report of the incident, he tased the boy in the high school dean’s office because the boy wasn’t being cooperative with security guards who were trying to search him because they suspected he was involved in a drug transaction.

Disciplinary records from the city of Clayton show the police department hired Barnes as a probationary employee in November 2014 and that he resigned in May 2015 — just before being fired — following an investigation prompted by complaints of harassment, stalking, intimidation and other misconduct.

Clayton police Chief Scott Julian wrote in a May 19, 2015, report that Barnes had violated several policies and that it was in the department’s “best interest to relieve you of your duties as a probationary employee.” Barnes’ last day of employment was set for May 20.

But he offered a letter of resignation May 19, records show.

Julian declined to comment on Barnes.

The Grants Police Department had fired Barnes in February 2014, less than a year after hiring him, following accusations of a pattern of aggressive and confrontational behavior toward his girlfriend and other people in the community.

One of the allegations by his girlfriend at the time was that Barnes had chased her and her son with a Taser.

During a custody dispute over a son the couple share, Barnes and the woman obtained mutual temporary restraining orders against each other, and he was accused of violating the terms. He also was accused of harassing and intimidating the woman’s co-workers and employees at their son’s child care center.

While Barnes was serving in Clayton, records show, a 24-year-old woman accused him of harassing her, saying he would park outside her home. During an investigation into an allegation of domestic violence involving the woman’s injured husband, she told police, Barnes urged the man to press charges against her even though he had suffered his injuries in a drunken fall.

Julian wrote in his report on Barnes that he found no evidence the officer had parked outside the woman’s home to watch her. But, he wrote, “there is a pattern of females complaining about you stalking them.”

He further wrote that Barnes’ criminal complaint against the man’s wife, accusing her of witness intimidation — Barnes named himself as her victim — was “hard to believe.”

A Clayton police sergeant told Julian that Barnes reportedly had maintained “an unwritten hit list on people in town” and that Barnes would arrest or criminally charge people he didn’t like, Julian wrote.

Barnes, in written responses, denied the allegations.

“I am and have always been firm, fair and consistent,” Barnes wrote. “I do not hold a bias in any case. … I am professional on and off duty because I hold myself to the higher standard, and know I am under constant scrutiny by the public.”

Other records indicate Barnes and a prosecutor with the District Attorney’s Office in Clayton had a conflict that turned physical, leading prosecutors to request that Barnes not be allowed back in their office.

The encounter is discussed in a March 19, 2015, letter from 8th Judicial District Attorney Donald Gallegos to Julian.

Gallegos said in his letter that he spoke with all of his staff, and “every single one of them stated that they felt Barnes was going to strike” the prosecutor.

“All of my staff told me that they prefer that Barnes not be allowed back in the office as they are concerned about his temper,” Gallegos wrote.

Gallegos did not return a call Wednesday to comment on the dispute.

“I will review any felony cases that are his and come up with a strategy to make sure they are prosecuted,” Gallegos told the chief in the letter. “I am also contemplating not prosecuting any of his misdemeanor cases and he is free to prosecute them himself.”

On May 2, 2015, records show, Barnes left a loaded handgun taken from a suspect unsecured inside a desk drawer in the patrol office in Clayton.

Barnes apologized for that incident and said it would not happen again, according to records.

Maj. Randy Sanches, a spokesman for the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office, did not return calls Wednesday seeking comment. He previously said the office was unaware when it hired Barnes that he had been fired from the Grants Police Department.

The Española school board and superintendent have criticized Barnes’ tasing of the student, as have the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, Attorney General Hector Balderas and Lt. Gov. Howie Morales.

Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan has defended Barnes’ actions, however.