This 4 On Your Side investigation looks into the actions of police officers and doctors in Southern New Mexico.
A review of medical records, police reports and a federal lawsuit show deputies with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, police officers with the City of Deming and medical professionals at the Gila Regional Medical Center made some questionable decisions.
The incident began January 2, 2013 after David Eckert finished shopping at the Wal-Mart in Deming. According to a federal lawsuit, Eckert didn’t make a complete stop at a stop sign coming out of the parking lot and was immediately stopped by law enforcement.
Eckert’s attorney, Shannon Kennedy, said in an interview with KOB that after law enforcement asked him to step out of the vehicle, he appeared to be clenching his buttocks. Law enforcement thought that was probable cause to suspect that Eckert was hiding narcotics in his anal cavity. While officers detained Eckert, they secured a search warrant from a judge that allowed for an anal cavity search.
The lawsuit claims that Deming Police tried taking Eckert to an emergency room in Deming, but a doctor there refused to perform the anal cavity search citing it was “unethical.”
But physicians at the Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City agreed to perform the procedure and a few hours later, Eckert was admitted.
While there, Eckert was subjected to repeated and humiliating forced medical procedures. A review of Eckert’s medical records, which he released to KOB, and details in the lawsuit show the following happened:
1. Eckert’s abdominal area was x-rayed; no narcotics were found.
2. Doctors then performed an exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
3. Doctors performed a second exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
4. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
5. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a second time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
6. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a third time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
7. Doctors then x-rayed Eckert again; no narcotics were found.
8. Doctors prepared Eckert for surgery, sedated him, and then performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert’s anus, rectum, colon, and large intestines. No narcotics were found.
Throughout this ordeal, Eckert protested and never gave doctors at the Gila Regional Medical Center consent to perform any of these medical procedures.
“If the officers in Hidalgo County and the City of Deming are seeking warrants for anal cavity searches based on how they’re standing and the warrant allows doctors at the Gila Hospital of Horrors to go in and do enemas and colonoscopies without consent, then anyone can be seized and that’s why the public needs to know about this,” Kennedy said.
Search Warrant Concerns
There are major concerns about the way the search warrant was carried out. Kennedy argues that the search warrant was overly broad and lacked probable cause. But beyond that, the warrant was only valid in Luna County, where Deming is located. The Gila Regional Medical Center is in Grant County. That means all of the medical procedures were performed illegally and the doctors who performed the procedures did so with no legal basis and no consent from the patient.
In addition, even if the search warrant was executed in the correct New Mexico county, the warrant expired at 10 p.m. Medical records show the prepping for the colonoscopy started at 1 a.m. the following day, three hours after the warrant expired.
“This is like something out of a science fiction film, anal probing by government officials and public employees,” Kennedy said.
KOB reached out to the attorneys representing the defendants in the lawsuit and all declined to comment on the situation. The attorneys said it’s their personal policy not comment on pending litigation.
4 On Your Side Investigative Reporter Chris Ramirez cornered Deming Police Chief Brandon Gigante.
“As the police chief what reassurances could you give people when they come through your town that they won’t be violated or abused by your police officers?” Ramirez asked Chief Gigante.
“We follow the law in every aspect and we follow policies and protocols that we have in place,” Chief Gigante replied.
“Do you think those officers in this particular case did that?” Ramirez asked.
Gigante didn’t answer, instead he referred Ramirez to his attorney.
David Eckert is suing The City of Deming and Deming Police Officers Bobby Orosco, Robert Chavez and Officer Hernandez.
Eckert is also suing Hidalgo County Hidalgo County Deputies David Arredondo, Robert Rodriguez and Patrick Green.
Eckert is also suing Deputy District Attorney Daniel Dougherty and the Gila Regional Medical Center including Robert Wilcox, M.D and Okay Odocha, M.D.