Failure to make complete stops at stop signs and clenching one’s buttocks in the presence of police officers are now are now grounds for arrest and a violent search of one’s anus.
On January 2nd, 2013, David Eckert failed to make a complete stop at a stop sign when leaving the parking lot of the Wal-Mart in Deming, New Mexico. He was instantly stopped by law enforcement. After stepping out of the vehicle, the police suspected him of clenching his buttocks. Apparently, this is probable cause to suspect that narcotics are being hidden in the anal cavity.
After officers received a search warrant from a judge, Eckert was taken to hospital where he was subjected to invasive medical procedures to search for the drugs he allegedly possessed. The first hospital he was taken to refused to co-operate, as they noticed that involuntary medical procedures are “unethical”. The officers took Eckert to a second hospital, in a different county, where the staff were more enthusiastic to be involved in the heroic job of law enforcement.
Gila Regional Medical Centre subjected Eckert to a series of invasive and humiliating procedures, including anal probes and forced defecation. This was done in the presence of observing hospital staff and police officers. Eckert claims (quite reasonably) that he gave no consent for any of the procedures at any point.
As reported by New Mexico radio station KOB4, medical records explain the sequence of events:
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.
These (increasingly invasive) procedures proved utterly useless. At no point were any drugs of any kind found. In fact, despite the “evidence” to the contrary, Eckert was concealing absolutely nothing. The ordeal lasted for more than 12 hours.
However, rather than receiving an apology and compensation, Eckert was sent a large medical bill for the tests he was forced to take part in, and that he did not consent to at any point. Eckert has subsequently filed a civil rights lawsuit.
Eckert is suing the City of Deming and officers Orosco and Chavez. He is also suing Officer Hernandez, Deputy District Attorney Daniel Dougherty, and Hidalgo County deputies David Arredondo, Robert Rodriguez and Patrick Green. He’s also bringing a suit against the Gila Regional Medical Center, including Robert Wilcox, M.D. and Okay Odocha, M.D.
If anything close to justice can be served, Eckert should receive full compensation for his medical (and legal costs). Furthermore, every individual complicit in the events needs to lose their jobs. The medical professionals need to be permanently stripped of their licenses, and the police force needs to purge the responsible officers.
Brandon Gigante, Deming’s Police Chief, argued that his officers “follow the law in every aspect.” If this were the case, it would only serve to reduce the law to a sick joke. However, Eckert’s attorney, civil rights lawyer Shannon Kennedy has pointed out that the search warrant was only valid in Luna County. Gila Regional Medical Centre, where searches took place, is in Grant County.
Furthermore, Kennedy has pointed out that the warrant expired hours before the ordeal was over. Fundamentally, though, issue has to be taken with the issuing of the warrant in the first place:
“What is so strange about this case is they held him with no evidence,” Kennedy said. “They seized him to collect evidence, to go on a fishing expedition on someone’s body.”
After the events, police have cited the “evidence” that “Mr Eckert was known to insert drugs into his anal cavity” on a regular basis. This bizarre claim appears to be utterly baseless. It is true that Eckert does have past convictions for drug possession, but there is no evidence that his anus has ever been involved. This also does not explain the dogged enthusiasm for continued searching after the initial x-ray showed no drugs in his body.
Furthermore, as noted, for the officers involved, poor responses to road signs and clenching one’s buttocks are sufficient grounds for arrest and gross violation of civil rights. Past offences were not cited until after the events. Counter-factually, had Eckert never had any past convictions, he would have received exactly the same treatment. It should also be noted that past criminal records do not invalidate constitutional (let alone natural) rights.
Kennedy, who has practised civil rights law for over 18 years, said: “this may be the most egregious case I have ever seen with law enforcement abuse.”
Eckert’s experience could perhaps be seen as a lone aberration. However, another New Mexico resident has recently come forward with similar charges. She has chosen to remain nameless as she views herself as a victim of sexual assault.
When crossing the border at a Port of Entry from Juarez, Mexico into El Paso, federal agents stopped her. Based only on the evidence of a sniffer dog, they decided to strip search her. She was forced to undress, spread her genitalia and cough. Female agents allegedly pressed their fingers into her vagina and rummaged for drugs.
As they failed to discover anything on-site, she was taken to the University Medical Center of El Paso. She was subjected to a forced bowel movement; a cavity search; ‘bi-manual’ (two-handed) probes of her vagina and her anus; and a cat scan. At no point was anything found. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the federal agents failed to secure a warrant before touching and probing the victim.
Alone, these incidents would be shameful episodes indicative of a handful of morally depraved and incompetent individuals. When taken together, it suggests an institutional and cultural problem with New Mexico’s law enforcement bodies. When seen in a context of worldwide abuses and mishaps by police, it seems that there is a deeper problem.
Eckert’s lawsuit can be viewed here.