Marlene Tapia, a New Mexico woman who was arrested for a parole violation, suffered for weeks after a corrections officer sprayed mace in her vagina — twice.
According to court records, after Tapia was arrested for a violation of her probation stemming from a previous drug arrest, she was taken to the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center. She was then moved, under the authorization of Sgt. Angela Sena, to the showers by officers Jennifer Stepp and Blanca Zapater to be strip searched.
Tapia was ordered to bend over at the waist, where officers noticed a baggie protruding from her vagina. Instead of taking her to the hospital to have it removed (something at which New Mexico police have recently proven adept), officer Zapater sprayed mace directly on Tapia’s genitals twice — an action that would not do anything to remove the baggie and served only as a cruel and unnecessary punishment. Tapia was not physically resisting officers.
The detention center’s policy regarding strip searches states that proper procedure would have been to take her to a medical provider for removal of the object, if something is found to be lodged in a body cavity.
Tapia, however, was not taken to medical professionals until after Zapater barbarically sprayed chemicals on her most sensitive body part.
The ACLU has filed a lawsuit on Ms. Tapia’s behalf, alleging cruel and unusual punishment. Depending on if the court determines that she was a pretrial detainee or if she had been convicted of a crime at the time, the suit focuses on violations of her Fourteenth or Eighth Amendment rights when she was brutally tortured by Zapater.
Executive Director of New Mexico’s ACLU branch Peter Simonson says that, “It’s tantamount to torture. It’s just the maliciousness, the wanton disregard, wanton maliciousness that the corrections officer demonstrated. This is the kind of chemical that is intended to be sprayed on other parts of the body, to cause pain, but to spray it on the very most sensitive part of a person’s body only doubles the pain.”
Zapater “has been disciplined,” for the incident, but is still employed at the detention center.
Court documents below: