July 28--A former Sandoval County deputy claims supervisors sent her and Sgt. Joe Harris to a Jemez Mountains stakeout targeting the notorious "Cookie Bandit" even though they lacked proper training, backup, bulletproof vests or working radios.
The results, according to a lawsuit filed by former deputy Theresa Moriarty:
Harris was fatally wounded in a shootout and bled to death while waiting about an hour for medical help to arrive, while she suffered physical and emotional injuries.
Her lawsuit contends then-Sheriff John Paul Trujillo placed her and Harris in harm's way without warning them of the danger in order to save money and for "good publicity."
Moriarty and Harris worked as school resource officers when they were sent to the stakeout aimed at catching the serial burglar in July 2009.
The two "had no undercover training, no training for rural law enforcement operations, and no standard weapons and field training," the lawsuit alleges.
The complaint filed this month in 13th Judicial District Court also alleges Trujillo failed to accept assistance from State Police who had been put on the case as a result of outcry from Jemez Mountain residents who had been terrorized by a homeless burglar dubbed the "Cookie Bandit."
Trujillo and then-undersheriff Tim Lucero referred comment to the county attorney's office. Capt. Edd Morrison, also named in the lawsuit, did not return a call Wednesday.
"There is definitely more than one side to the story," said attorney Scott Eaton, who is representing the defendants. "We'll see how it plays out and what the facts really are. The facts are not how they are portrayed in the claim." The
so-called "Cookie B and it," Joseph Henry Burgess, 62, shot and mortally wounded Harris, 46, in the early morning hours of July 16, 2009, after breaking into the cabin where the stakeout had been set up.
Harris and Moriarty had managed to handcuff Burgess, but the burglar somehow pulled a gun from his waistband. Moriarty tried unsuccessfully to shoot Burgess with a gun Harris had lent her. Harris took the gun back, and despite being critically wounded, managed to shoot and kill Burgess.
Harris was bleeding profusely from his femoral artery, and it would be nearly an hour before medical help arrived. He was airlifted to an Albuquerque hospital, where he later died.
Moriarty remained employed by the county until this April, when she was taken off the payroll. She filed the lawsuit earlier this month.
Her suit also claims:
Moriarty suffered severe neck and back pain as well as a torn rotator cuff resulting in constant pain and numbness in her right arm and fingers. She also sustained psychological and emotional injuries including suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
Trujillo, Lucero and Morrison knew Burgess likely was armed and dangerous, could become violent if confronted and might have had special forces training but still downplayed the danger of the assignment.
Trujillo, Lucero and Morrison kept the stakeout secret from other deputies, failed to provide backup officers and emergency medical personnel and provided substandard radios and no working cell phones to Harris and Moriarty.
SCSO failed to collect fingerprints possibly left by Burgess at numerous cabin breakins. SCSO failed to submit to the FBI the fingerprints they did collect, which might have determined that Burgess was a wanted "serial killer." Burgess was wanted out of Canada in connection with the 1972 killing of a young couple.
Trujillo, Lucero and Morrison withheld information concerning David Eley who was believed to have been killed by Burgess. The FBI traced the handgun that Burgess used to shoot Harris to Eley, a hiker who had been reported missing while camping in the Jemez Mountains in 2006.
According to a New Mexico State Police investigator, Morrison falsely told State Police that Burgess had been seen in Cuba, N.M. Members of a State Police tactical team were en route to Cuba on a "wild goose chase" to search for Burgess when they learned of the shootout in near Jemez Springs.
Even though they were not trained for undercover work, Lucero told Harris that because they were school resource officers they had "it easy all year" so they needed to be "team players and help them out." Trujillo, Lucero and Morrison pressured Moriarty and told her she needed to "pull her own weight."
Moriarty is asking for a jury trial and seeking damages for physical injuries and emotional distress.