WATCH: New Mexico Police Officer Costs City More Than $800,000 in Excessive Force Settlements

ESPAÑOLA, N.M. – He’s been accused of using excessive force for years, and it’s cost his city a lot of money. According to records obtained from the City of Española, it has paid out $806,000 in settlements for complaints involving Española Police Sergeant Greg Esparza.

Citizens in the community want to know why that police officer is still on the force. On Special Assignment, KRQE News 13 discovered why people are asking that question.

“The amount of complaints are certainly concerning to all of us involved,” said Española Mayor Javier Sanchez.

“It’s officers like him that give you guys a bad name. Honestly,” Virginia Valdez told an Española Police officer in 2016.

Valdez was referring to Española Police Sergeant Greg Esparza.

Police lapel video from June 2016 shows another Española police officer pulling over Valdez in a van he suspects might be stolen and possibly involved in a shoplifting call at Walmart.

“Turn away from me, turn away from me and put your hands above your head and walk back. Walk back, stop right there,” the officer instructs Valdez.

Valdez complies with commands, until the point when the officer asks her to get on her knees.

“Go ahead and get on your knees, ma’am,” the officer instructs.

“I can’t,” she replies. “I’m telling you to right now,” the officer says. “My knee -” she said.

“I don’t give a s*** get on your knees!” The officer shouts. “I can’t!” Valdez shouts back.

That’s when video shows Esparza enter the frame, taking matters into his own hands.

Video shows Esparza grab Valdez by the arm and take her down to the ground.

When asked if this appears to be excessive force, Steve Allen, Policy Director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Albuquerque replied, “It certainly raises some red flags.”

“There needs to be systems of accountability in place to make sure that when instances like this come up, they’re appropriately reviewed,” Allen added.

At the time, Valdez said she was trying to tell the first officer she was disabled and has a dislocated knee, which is why she couldn’t get on her knees.

She’d just left Walmart and said she had no idea why officers were pulling her over. Her van wasn’t reported stolen and she wasn’t the one shoplifting.

The officer claims the man they were looking for was seen in her van earlier.

“I understand that, but the way that other guy treated me was totally uncalled for,” Valdez told the responding officer.

Valdez filed a tort claim notice threatening to sue for the way Esparza handled her, and according to records obtained by KRQE, she won a $25,000 settlement.

It turns out she’s not the only one who’s complained about Esparza’s actions with the Española Police Department.

Court records show he’s named in at least seven use-of-force lawsuits or tort claims since 2012.

According to one lawsuit, Esparza tased an unarmed paraplegic man at close range in a Sonic parking lot. Esparza claimed the man was resisting, but there’s no police video of the scuffle.

Another lawsuit claims Esparza tased an unarmed 71-year-old retired teacher in his own yard for not keeping his distance as medics tried to save the man’s son from an overdose.

The lawsuit claims Española police handcuffed and arrested the husband and wife while their son lay dying inside.

According to court records, charges against the couple were dismissed and they won a $650,000 settlement. KRQE News 13 requested police video of the incident, but again none exists.

A few months later, another man filed a civil rights lawsuit against Esparza saying he wrongfully arrested, wrongfully charged, and assaulted him after a traffic accident.

Esparza claims the man got in his face and yelled at him. In that case, Esparza handcuffed the driver who was rear-ended.

The man claims Esparza saw a “pen knife” on his keys and told him, “Now it’s assault with a deadly weapon.” The driver claims Esparza then grabbed his hand so hard he broke bones.

According to city records, he sued and won a $125,000 settlement. There’s no video of that encounter either.

In 2015, a concerned witness called State Police, saying an Española Police officer was tasing and dragging a man in handcuffs.

Dispatcher: “If you’ve got a complaint about how the officer dealt with it, you’re gonna have to start with that agency.”

Caller: “My God, they’re gonna kill people here.”

The man allegedly being assaulted also sued.

In his Supervisory Taser Use Report, Esparza reported using his taser on the man three times. But the man’s lawsuit points out the taser’s “computer chip…shows it was discharged six times in 55 seconds.”

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