Friday, January 31, 2014

David Eckert Story: War on Drugs vs Civil Rights - Part 1

David Eckert Story: Part I

For those of you who have not heard of David Eckert's encounter with the police, here is the short of the long story: Last year Mr. Eckert was pulled over by police for failing to yield at a stop sign. Law enforcement thought that because he was acting nervously and stood strangely that he might be hiding drugs up his anal cavity, so they acquired a warrant and had doctors: check his anal cavity multiple times with their finger, give him multiple enemas causing him to defecate in front of them, gave him multiple x-rays and finally, performed a colonoscopy on him. All of this was done without his consent. No drugs were ever found. The hospital later billed him $6000 for their "services".

I was shocked by the story when I first read about it but didn't want to get too worked up until I looked into it further. Often times there is more to a story than what the initial headlines tell us so I decided to put a little effort into investigating this one. I have read a great many accounts of what happened that day and have acquired numerous sources of information. The following is my attempt to convey the story in a complete and accurate way.

Detailed Account
On January 2, 2012 around 1:00 P.M. officer Robert Chavez of the city of Deming police department pulled over David Eckert in the parking lot of a local Walmart for allegedly failing to yield at a stop sign.  It should be noted that Officer Chavez did not witness the alleged traffic violation but was acting under the direction of Sgt. Detective Bobby Orosco.

During the stop, Officer Chavez noticed that Eckert did not make eye contact and that his hand shook when he gave the officer his license, registration and proof of insurance. Finding his behavior suspicious, he asked Eckert to step out of the vehicle and conducted a Terry pat down for any weapons. None were found. While Eckert stood next to his car, Officer Chavez noted that his posture was erect and that he kept his legs together. Officer Chavez informed Eckert that a uniformed officer would soon arrive to issue him a citation for the traffic violation (which leaves the impression that Chavez was in plain clothes). A short time later Officer Villegas arrived and issued the citation.1

At this point Officer Chavez tells Mr. Eckert he is free to go. As he turns to return to his vehicle, Officer Chavez asked if he could search his vehicle. According to Chavez 1, Eckert agrees but in the federal lawsuit 2, Eckert adamantly denies this. Officer Chavez reports that he then asked to search his person for narcotics or weapons which Eckert refuses.

Officer Chavez then calls in a canine unit from the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department. Officer's Green and Arredondo respond with their canine named LEO.  According to Officer Green's report, LEO "indicated and alerted to the presence of an unknown narcotic odor on the driver's seat of the vehicle."3 According to Chavez's report a Hildalgo county officer informed him that he had dealt with Eckert before and that he was known for inserting drugs into his anal cavity and had been caught in Hildalgo county with drugs in his anal cavity.1 The federal lawsuit states that it was Officer's Orosco and Arredondo that informed Chavez that Eckert was known for inserting drugs into his anal cavity. The lawsuit also states that this information was false.2

Eckert was then placed in "investigative detention" and transported to the Deming Police Department while Chavez filed the affidavit to obtain a search warrant. Eckert's vehicle was searched but no contraband was found.4

According to the lawsuit, Eckert requested the right to make a telephone call but Officer's Chavez and 
Hernandez informed him that he was not under arrest and therefore did not have a reason to call anyone.2

Officer Chavez completed the Affidavit for Search Warrant, had it approved by the Deputy District Attorney Daniel Dougherty and signed by Judge Daniel Viramontes.1

Once the warrant was obtained, Officer Chavez transported Eckert to Deming Emergency Room to have medical staff conduct a search of his anal cavity. Dr. Ash, the attending physician, refused to carryout the search expressing that he believed it was unethical.

Officer Chavez contacted Deputy District Attorney Dougherty who advised that he could take him to a different ER facility. Officer's Chavez contacts the Gila Regional Medical Center located in neighboring Grant County. They agree to carryout the warrant. Officer's Chavez and Hernandez transport Eckert to the facility.4

Eckert was admitted to Gila Regional Medical Center around 9:04 P.M. While there, Eckert, who never gave consent and protested the entire time, was given the following procedures:

1. Eckert's abdominal area was x-rayed; no foreign objects were found.2, 5

2. Doctor Wilcox then performed an exam of Eckert's anus with his fingers; he reported that he felt something soft which could have been stool.2, 5

3. Doctor Odocha performed a second rectal exam of Eckert with his fingers which concluded around 10:30 P.M.. Doctor Odocha reported that there were no masses found apart from the soft stool.2, 5

4. Doctor Odocha ordered that Eckert be given enemas until all results were clear. Hospital staff gave Eckert a total of three enemas. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of a nurse and Officer Chavez three times. Each time Officer Chavez inspected the stool. No narcotics were found.2, 5

5. A second x-ray was taken; no narcotics were found.2, 5

6. On or around 1:00 A.M. Eckert was prepped for surgery. Doctor Odocha then performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert's anus and his large intestines were inspected.. The procedure was completed on or about 2:15 A.M; no narcotics were found.2, 5

According to David Eckert, Officer's Chavez and Hernandez harassed, mocked and berated him by making derogatory remarks about his compromised position.2

Eckert was released from the hospital about 20 minutes after the completion of the colonoscopy.
He was driven back to the Deming Police Department by Officer's Eckert and Hernandez and then to his home by Sergeant Lovelace. He arrived at his home around 5:00 A.M.5

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