New Mexico Man Sues Security Firm Over Pepper Spraying

August 14, 2012

A man has sued a security company after one of its guards pepper-sprayed him last month on the sidewalk in downtown Santa Fe, N.M.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that 26-year-old Justin LeVan filed a lawsuit on July 31 against security guard Heath Mora and the company he works for, Associated Security International. LeVan is seeking unspecified damages.

A police report of the late-night encounter on July 24 said the guard thought LeVan was “tagging” a street sign with graffiti and attempted to stop him.

LeVan’s attorney denies that his client was tagging.

The police report said that Mora said he saw LeVan walking past a “road sign” with a black marker in his hand and thought LeVan wrote on the sign. He told LeVan to stop and ran after him.

Mora told police that LeVan put his hands on a wall, then turned around “with a look in his eye” like he was going to fight and took a step toward Mora.

Mora told the officer he used his pepper spray gun in LeVan’s face.

The account in LeVan’s lawsuit said Mora started “screaming” at him from 50 yards away, then Mora ran toward him and “brutally attacked” him by kicking his legs, placing him in a choke hold and pressing his face into the sidewalk.

In a cellphone video taken by a post-altercation witness, LeVan said he was not tagging, but “replicating,” a term which means tracing over someone’s existing tag, according to police Lt. Louis Carlos.

The police report said a marker was found on LeVan.

The report states that LeVan acknowledged tracing a tag on a trash can. LeVan’s attorney said this was not true and that his client stopped to admire the tags when he was chased down by Mora.

Associated Security officials declined an interview request, but issued a written statement.

“Based upon all the facts presently at our disposal, we believe that our officer acted appropriately after witnessing what appeared to be a crime against the property of one of our clients, and after being threatened verbally and physically by Mr. LeVan,” the Associated Security statement said.

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