ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A northern New Mexico county and police officers in a small city falsely detained an Albuquerque man diagnosed with schizophrenia for preaching at a Denny's restaurant, then denied him medical treatment in jail, according to a new federal lawsuit.
In court papers filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque last week, attorneys for Elijah Dominguez said Colfax County and Raton police officers violated his constitutional rights after his May 2013 arrest for disorderly conduct.
According to the lawsuit, Dominguez, now 22, stopped at the Raton restaurant while driving from Colorado and was arrested unlawfully for loudly preaching at the restaurant about his obscure religious beliefs and positions on gang violence.
Following his arrest, he was then denied medical treatment for his schizophrenia for four days at the Colfax County Detention Center and was left secluded in a holding cell, court papers said.
"During his detention, (Dominguez) was displaying obvious symptoms of psychosis such as talking to the wall, dancing around nude and not sleeping despite days passing," the lawsuit said.
Dominguez was charged with disturbing the peace, but that charge was later dismissed.
Colfax County Manager Patricia Gonzales did not immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press. Butch McGowen, Raton's interim city manager, also did not immediately return an email from The Associated Press.
Lawyers for Dominguez are seeking an unspecified amount for damages and attorneys' fees.
The lawsuit is the latest New Mexico case of law enforcement officers clashing with a suspect with mental illness as advocates push for reforms.
In previous years, New Mexico state lawmakers have tried unsuccessfully to get a "Kendra's law" passed. The law would require people with severe mental illnesses to take medications or face involuntary hospitalization. New York's Kendra's law was named after Kendra Webdale. She was killed in 1999 after being pushed in front of a subway train by a man battling untreated schizophrenia.
According to the Arlington, Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center, New Mexico is among five holdout states that have not approved laws allowing court orders to make mental health outpatients take their medications.
Advocates in New Mexico have begun pushing for a similar law and more mental health resources following a March police shooting of a homeless camper who spent years in and out of jail and the state's only psychiatric hospital. The shooting launched a violent protest in the city and later convinced Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry to ask the U.S. Justice Department to monitor the troubled police department amid a pending federal investigation.
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