LAS CRUCES, N.M. - The attorney for a man suing the Las Cruces Police Department told ABC-7 that the excessive force case might set a precedent for police conduct.
"Even when a person is being arrested, regardless of what the suspicion or allegations or accusations are, they always have their constitutional rights," said Daisy Chaparro, the attorney handling the case. "That's important for everybody to know."
In August 2015, Officer Mark Moralez pulled over Warren McCowan, who he suspected of driving drunk. According to court documents, McCowan blew "just above the legal limit" on a breathalyzer test.
However, McCowan told Officer Moralez about his "serious medical needs," which included his injured shoulders and neck. McCowan said the officer refused to handcuff his wrists in front of him, ultimately taking him on a "rough ride" in the police vehicle without a seatbelt.
"They were so tight to where my fingers looked like sausages, they were purple," McCowan said. "He drove like he was in Nascar or something."
At the Doña Ana County Detention Center, McCowan told ABC-7 he was denied medical care numerous times.
"I was crying," McCowan said. "I was begging anybody who would pass by, any of the officers. There were several of them who came in and tried to get anybody to help me because I was in a lot of pain."
Ultimately, McCowan said detention officers lifted him from the floor, further damaging his rotator cuffs.
"It caused injuries to both shoulders, significant enough that he would require rotator cuff repairs on both shoulders," Chaparro said.
McCowan had to pay more than $120,000 in medical bills paying for two shoulder surgeries after his arrest, he told ABC-7.
"They stood me up and it tore everything," McCowan said. "I don't think a dog should be treated the way I was that night. To be handcuffed and left handcuffed, begging, crying. Nobody should be treated that way."
A spokesman for the Las Cruces Police Department declined to comment on the case because it is pending litigation.
The Tenth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals denied Officer Moralez qualified immunity from the case, meaning the jury will take into account his role and responsibility in the case.
Chaparro insists the department violated her client's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights due to the alleged excessive force and "deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs."
"(He) had the right to medical care," Chaparro said. "Any and all constitutional rights are always afforded and should be afforded to an individual whether they’re being arrested or not."
The trial will likely take place in 2020 at the federal courthouse in Las Cruces, Chaparro told ABC-7.