A new lawsuit alleges that an Española police officer confronted a woman and her four children outside the family home, choked one boy and tried to punch another because one of the children threw a Nerf football at the officer’s patrol car.

The suit alleges officer John Vigil choked a teenaged boy and proceeded to lift him in the air so his feet were dangling and the boy couldn’t breathe.

The lawsuit further alleges that Vigil was hired against the recommendation of Española police Lt. Christian Lopez, who did a pre-hire background check. Lopez knew of Vigil’s “reputation as a ‘hothead’ who was quick to anger,” the lawsuit maintains.

The suit on behalf of Dolores Tapia and her two teenaged sons was filed Tuesday in state District Court by Santa Fe attorney John Day. Named as defendants are Vigil, the city of Española and the Española Police Department.

Española police chief Eric Garcia, who was not with the department of the time of the alleged incident, said Vigil is not longer with the department. Vigil was hired provisionally under the requirement that he become certified with the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy within a specified time period, which did not happen, Garcia said.

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