Man Seeks Millions After N.M. Police Force Colonoscopy in Drug Search

Civil rights attorney says Hispanic officers may have targeted 'white boy' because they 'don't like him living in their community.'

Police respond to a crime scene in Deming, N.M., on Dec. 20, 2005. A Jan. 2, 2013, police stop in Deming resulted in a colonoscopy for one resident wrongly suspected of drug possession.
By + More

Police forced New Mexico scrap metal tradesman David Eckert to undergo two digital anal probes, three enema insertions and ultimately a colonoscopy after officers incorrectly assumed he was concealing drugs, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on his behalf.

No drugs were found by police or doctors at the Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City, N.M. The exhaustive search began when Eckert allegedly rolled through a stop sign in Deming, N.M., on Jan. 2, 2013.

Albuquerque civil rights attorney Shannon Kennedy is representing Eckert and says she is seeking "in excess of $1 million in punitive damages alone" from the law enforcement and medical personnel responsible and their employers. 

[UPDATE: Second Anal Probe Lawsuit Being Filed Against N.M. Police]

"We see this as a multimillion-dollar case," Kennedy said. "This is essentially medical anal rape, numerous times over a 12-hour period. I can't imagine anything more horrifying than what happened to our client. It's just sadistic."

The apparent justification for the search, Kennedy said, was that police believed Eckert's buttocks were clenched during the traffic stop.

But, she said, it's also possible the officers just didn't like how her client looks.

"Maybe the officers who did this don't like him living in their community," said Kennedy. "He's a white boy, a scraggly white boy, and all these officers are Hispanic. It's a New Mexico thing."

[READ: U.S. Police Made One Arrest Every 2 Seconds in 2012]

Kennedy said her client, 63 years old when he was detained, looks somewhat like rocker Tom Petty and says he denies standing with his buttocks clenched.

 

"I've never read anything like that before for probable cause," Kennedy said.

In the search warrant affidavit that sought permission for an anal cavity probe, one police officer said he asked Eckert for permission to physically search him after the minor traffic stop. When Eckert refused, the document says, a police K-9 dog alerted them to the side of his car. Kennedy alleges the dog is not certified to search for drugs and may actually be a pet.

A judge granted the search warrant for the anal cavity probe, but not necessarily a colonoscopy.

[RANKINGS: U.S. News Reviews the Top Law Firms]

Officers then transported Eckert to the Gila Regional Medical Center after an emergency room doctor at a Deming, N.M., hospital told them "this is unethical," Kennedy said. The doctor who refused to comply with police is willing to testify if the lawsuit goes to trial, according to Kennedy.

After arriving at the Gila facility, doctors examined Eckert's anal cavity twice with their fingers, put him through an x-ray scan and then inserted three rounds of enemas into his anus. After each enema, doctors examined the stool sample produced. Eckert was then given a second x-ray scan and forced to undergo a colonoscopy with anesthesia.

It's unclear why the colonoscopy was necessary after enemas and x-rays did not reveal hidden drugs. Eckert was sent a $6,000 bill for the medical procedures he involuntarily underwent, his lawyer says.

[PHOTOS: Voters, Candidates on 2013 Election Day]

Kennedy says her client lives in fear of retaliation yet wants to share his story "to protect others, to let them know this happened."

But, she says, he also wants to guard his privacy and doesn't want to be known as "the anally probed guy."

Eckert is suing three Deming, N.M., police officers, three Hidalgo County police officers, the Gila Regional Medical Center and Deputy District Attorney Daniel Dougherty, who helped secure the warrant. Kennedy filed a malpractice complaint with the state medical review commission Oct. 18 against the two doctors who performed the colonoscopy.

Hidalgo County Sheriff Saturnino Madero did not return a U.S. News request for comment. Deming Police Chief Brandon Gigante declined to comment on the case when reached by KOB-TV on Monday, simply saying, "We follow the law in every aspect and we follow policies and protocols that we have in place."

Kennedy filed a motion for summary judgment Oct. 24, asking the court to rule on the facts of the case, which she says are not disputed. She says defendants responded by expressing interest in resolving the case outside of court.