Assault Charges Dropped Against Two Las Cruces, NM Officers After Mistrial
November 29, 2016 (Fault Lines) – When we ask for police officers to be prosecuted, we have to be ready to accept the results. On December 23, 2014, former Las Cruces, New Mexico Police officers Richard Garcia and Danny Salcido severely beat a handcuffed Ross Flynn in a jail cell. Flynn had been arrested for charges relating to a dispute with a neighbor, and after the beating was hospitalized with a skull fracture. Garcia and Salcido were fired in May of 2015 and were charged with Aggravated Battery resulting in Great Bodily Injury.
The case against the officers was handled jointly by the Doña Anna District Attorney and the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. Garcia was taken to trial first, and testified that he had no intent to harm Flynn. As a former officer, I pretty much think that is bull, the beating was pretty clearly punishment. But what I see doesn’t matter; it is what you can make the jury see, and the jury hung, 11-1 for acquittal.
So this week, charges were dropped against both officers, even though Salcido had not yet been to trial. The prosecutors apparently believed that the chance of obtaining a conviction was slim based on the first trial, and I would tend to agree with them. Police officers, even former officers, are given the benefit of the doubt by the public in court. That includes when officers are the defendants. So the prosecutors evaluated their case as compared to the results, and determined that their case was too weak to proceed. So they did what prosecutors are supposed to do, and dropped the charges.
That decision does not affect the pending $12.5 million civil suit that Flynn has filed against the city and the officers, nor would it affect any federal prosecution for civil rights violations. I doubt that there will be a federal prosecution, because the U.S. Attorney’s Office isn’t stupid and will look at the same results as the state prosecutors in making their decision.
Flynn, like most people who are in jail, was also not the most sympathetic victim. He was in jail because he allegedly pointed a rifle at a neighbor over a dispute about a parking space, was tazed by police at the scene for being non-compliant, and was fairly mouthy to the officers at the jail. Before cameras, those were sure signs that the guy was going to be “tuned up” by the officers. Cameras in this case did not serve any deterrent effect; you can see one of the officer’s point at the camera at the very end of the video. Even so, Flynn’s conduct does not justify his beating, nor should it ever.
Although the charges were dropped, this prosecution was a success in a way. Every single time that an officer is accused of misconduct like this, they need to go to trial. Then the people, in the form of a jury, get to decide guilt or innocence. The officer is entitled to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence, and the people will decide what they will, or will not, tolerate from their officers.
We’re entitled to see the officers taken before the bar and be tried for any alleged offenses. We’re not entitled to a lynching or a witch burning. We should respect the jury’s decision, and in this case, the prosecutor’s decision to drop charges.
 A third degree felony in New Mexico, punishable by up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
 Meaning beat the suspect to improve the suspect’s attitude, not that this was likely to work.