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Lawsuit Planned in Arrest of 8-Year-Old

By Associated Press, various newspapers in the U.S.A. and Canada, August 31, 2004

ESPANOLA, N.M. -- The mother of a third-grader handcuffed and taken to the police station after hitting another child with a basketball has filed a notice that she intends to sue the Espanola school district, city police and the jail.

"We're pretty traumatized by the whole thing," said Angelica Esquibel, a teacher's aide for the district. "I don't feel safe with my children attending the Espanola schools."

According to a juvenile citation for disorderly conduct, Jerry Trujillo, 8, was arrested and booked into the Espanola jail Thursday after he "got out of control and refused to go back to class."

"The whole thing was absurd. The boy was in a holding cell crying," Esquibel's attorney, Sheri Raphaelson, said after filing tort claims Monday. "He was booked the same way you or I would be if we were arrested for DWI."

State Children, Youth and Families Department spokesman Matt Dillman said James H. Rodriguez Elementary School officials did not call local juvenile probation officials about the incident.

"In any case when a police department makes a decision to put a juvenile in detention, our juvenile probation office needs to know," he said Monday.

Juvenile probation officials do not know if the boy was formally detained, said Becky Ballentine, juvenile justice deputy director. Formally detained means a juvenile meets criteria on a form filled out by a probation officer and police, she said.

Her office will conduct a preliminary inquiry, she said.

Espanola Deputy Police Chief Nick Lovato said Monday police are doing a full report on the incident.

A police report says Jerry was arrested, taken to jail, booked and released to his parents.

The child was "noncompliant, refusing to calm down, refusing to pay attention to authorities," Lovato said.

He said the officer treated the child respectfully, bent down to his level and called him "mijito," a term of endearment. Raphaelson contended Jerry had run to his mother, who was trying to calm him down, when the officer handcuffed him.

Raphaelson and Esquibel said the child was taken to the jail adjacent to the police station, dressed in an orange jumpsuit and put in a holding cell. Raphaelson contended he also was fingerprinted, although she said children under age 13 cannot be fingerprinted without a court order.

Esquibel said school officials called police over her objections.

The Associated Press left a message Tuesday seeking comment from Espanola schools Superintendent Vernon Jaramillo.

Copyright 2004, The Associated Press