LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - In a unanimous decision, a jury awarded a husband and wife $1.6 million in a verdict against two Las Cruces Police Officers, the McGraw & Strickland law firm announced Monday.
A dispute between neighbors, involving barking dogs, on the evening of January 5, 2013, resulted in Jillian Beck suffering a broken nose and a fractured wrist at the hands of Las Cruces Police Officer Isaiah Baker, the law firm said.
A federal jury, the law firm said, determined Officer Baker had forcefully thrown Beck into her neighbor's rock yard.
When Beck lifted her face off the rocks to cry out to a neighbor to get her four-year old son away from the scene, Officer Baker "intentionally slammed her face back into the rocks," a news release from the McGraw & Strickland Law Firm states,
Beck's husband, Andrew, an active-duty Air Force member stationed at White Sands Missile Range, attempted to help his bleeding wife off the ground.
When the officer lifted Beck off the ground, she was bleeding heavily from her face, the law firm said.
During the trial, Andrew Beck testified via live feed from an Air Force Base in Qatar he thought his wife was "choking on her own blood" as she lay face down on the ground with Officer Baker's knee on her back.
When Andrew Beck stepped towards his wife, he was detained by Las Cruces Police Officer Joseph Campa.
The law firm states another officer had "started his hidden recorder just before the take-down, telling his fellow officers he was 'going red,' code for turning on his recorder."
The McGraw & Strickland Law Firm said Officer Baker could be heard in the audio recording, "She got thrown" and she got a "face full of rocks."
A female LCPD officer could be heard saying in response, "cool," the law firm states.
The officer recording the event can be heard patting his hidden recorder to let the other officers know he was still recording them and the conversation ends, the law firm states.
Jillian Beck was arrested and charged with Battery on a Peace Officer, Resisting, Evading and Obstructing an Officer and Disorderly Conduct. Andrew Beck was charged with Resisting, Evading and Obstructing an Officer.
The jury found Officer Baker had used unreasonably excessive force in violation of the Beck's 4th Amendment righst and committed a battery in violation of New Mexico State law.
The jury also found Officer Campa had unlawfully seized and arrested Andrew Beck in violation of the 4th Amendment.
The jury awarded $100,000 in compensatory damages to Andrew Beck and $500,000 to Jillian Beck. The jury also awarded $1-million in punitive damages "based on Officer Baker's willful, malicious, wanton and reckless conduct," the law firm said.
"The jury sent a clear message that this type of behavior towards civilians will not be tolerated in our community," said Margaret Strickland, the Beck's attorney.
Las Cruces Police Chief Jaime Montoya told ABC-7 he could not comment on the case because it is a legal matter. Montoya would only tell ABC-7 the "officers were never placed on leave and are still with the department."