ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A jury found a former New Mexico sheriff’s deputy guilty Tuesday of felony aggravated battery in the beating of a man who prosecutors say suffered a fracture when he was kicked in the head.
Jurors deliberated for six hours before returning the verdict against David Priemazon, who had been a sergeant before retiring earlier this year from the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities said he kicked Christopher Lucero in March 2018 as other officers were in the process of handcuffing him following a chase through Albuquerque’s South Valley.
Lucero had been suspected of driving a vehicle with the wrong license plate and fleeing on foot from deputies after the vehicle crashed.
A criminal complaint said Lucero suffered a fractured eye socket.
Another deputy reported Priemazon to sheriff’s officials, who launched an internal investigation.
“I am thankful for deputies who are willing to come forward to hold others accountable,” Sheriff Manuel Gonzales said in a statement following the verdict. “To avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, we turned this matter over to New Mexico State Police and we thank them for their work.”
In recent years, the sheriff’s office has come under scrutiny for a spate of high-speed pursuits and lawsuits stemming from deadly use-of-force cases.
Gonzales has resisted calls in the past for his officers to wear lapel cameras.
Sam Bregman, an Albuquerque attorney who represented Priemazon, said he appreciated that the judge provided the former deputy a fair trial but expressed disappointment in the verdict.
“We think the jury got it wrong,” said Bregman, who had argued that Priemazon did not kick Lucero in the head.
Priemazon could face up to three years in prison. He is set to be sentenced Dec. 3.
He pleaded no contest earlier this year to charges resulting from his 2018 arrest, including aggravated assault on a peace officer and aggravated fleeing.