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It reads like an article from The Onion: A man is pulled over by police for a minor traffic violation, a drug-sniffing K-9 sounds an alert, a search warrant is hastily obtained, and the man is taken to a hospital where he is subjected to x-rays, rectal exams, enemas, and finally a colonoscopy. But this is no parody article – this exact scenario played out earlier this year in southern New Mexico, not once, but twice.
David Eckert, 63, was stopped by local police after rolling through a stop sign in the rural town of Deming, New Mexico. After Eckert refused officers’ initial request for a physical search, a police K-9 named “Leo” alerted on the driver’s side seat of Eckert’s car. Officers then took Eckert in custody, secured a warrant, and transported him to Deming Hospital to undergo a court-mandated search.
The emergency room doctor at Deming Hospital refused to perform any medical procedures, telling police such a search was “unethical,” according to Eckert’s attorney, Shannon Kennedy. Police then transported Eckert to the Gila Regional Medical Center, where he was forced to undergo x-rays, two digital anal probes, three enema insertions, and ultimately a colonoscopy during the 14-hour ordeal. However, no drugs were found. Following his release, Eckert was billed $6,000 for the procedures.
Eckert is not the only man subjected to this treatment in southern New Mexico: during another stop for a minor traffic violation, Leo the K-9 again alerted on the driver’s seat of Timothy Young, who was pulled over for failure to use a directional signal. Like Eckert, Young was transported to the Gila Regional Medical Center, and like Eckert, forced to submit to medical procedures including x-rays and anal probes.
Again, police found nothing, and again the procedures were performed without consent.
Since Eckert’s case has come to light, investigators have found that Leo, the false-alarm K-9, is not actually registered as a service dog with the state of New Mexico. Leo had once been a trained police dog, but his certification expired in 2011. Kennedy alleges that the dog has not been in active service for years, and may actually be a pet.
Eckert is currently pursuing a suit against two Deming police officers, three Hidalgo County police officers, the Gila Regional Medical Center, and Deputy District Attorney Daniel Dougherty, who helped secure the warrant. He has also filed a malpractice suit against the individual doctors who performed the procedures. The emergency room doctor from Deming Hospital who refused to search Eckert has told press he would be willing to testify in court on Eckert’s behalf.
Eckert is seeking unspecified multi-million dollar damages, and hoping, according to Kennedy, that the officers and doctors involved will lose their jobs and their licenses so that they can never force such treatment on anyone again.
Kennedy believes that Eckert may have been targeted because he was a white man in a highly Hispanic area, arrested by Hispanic cops who profiled him as a “druggie” due to his resemblance to rocker Tom Petty. The justification for the search, says Kennedy, was that Eckert had his buttocks “clenched” during the traffic stop.
Seriously, you can’t make this shit up.
Yes, it sounds like a parody article, but this real. This is Drug War America, the land of the “free,” where truth is often more disturbing than fiction.