Former Las Animas County deputies back in court this month for tasing man in 2022

Handcuffed Man Tasered
Las Animas County Sheriff's Office/Mehr Law PLLC via AP
This still image taken from a Las Animas County deputy’s body camera and provided by Mehr Law PLLC shows Kenneth Espinoza. Espinoza was hit with a Taser in his face while being arrested on Nov. 29, 2022 in Trinidad, Colo.

Two former Las Animas County sheriff’s deputies have been charged with several misdemeanors for using unnecessary force during a traffic stop

Former Deputy Mikhail Noel and former Lt. Henry Trujillo removed Kenneth Espinoza from his truck, handcuffed him, and tased him repeatedly in Trinidad in November 2022.

Following the incident, the county fired Noel and Trujillo and paid Espinoza a $1.5 million settlement. The pair were charged earlier this year with assault, failure to intervene, official misconduct, official oppression, and menacing and will next appear in court later this month. 

“While we are pleased to see that, after over a year, the District Attorney’s Office is finally taking action, this is far from justice,” Kevin Mehr, Espinoza’s attorney said in a release. “These men brutalized Espinoza.”

Espinoza was following his son Nathaniel to a Ford dealership when officers pulled Nathaniel over. Trujillo and Noel argued with Espinoza about whether he could remain on the scene and gave him contradictory orders about leaving the scene.

When Espinoza began to drive away from the traffic stop, Trujillo and Noel stopped him. They handcuffed and tased Espinoza.

The Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office conducted an independent investigation on the incident and found the officers misused their tasers on Espinoza and misrepresented the event in their police reports.

Investigators also recommended the Las Animas County Sheriff’s office consider criminal prosecution.