Estate of pedestrian killed in August files lawsuit against Taos police

Feb. 12—Lawyers representing the estate of a man struck and killed by a vehicle driven by a Questa Municipal Court judge have filed a lawsuit against the Taos Police Department.

The lawsuit names the department, Taos Chief of Police John Wentz and three individual officers as defendants. Attorneys for the late Nathan Kee Charley contend his rights were violated and also allege negligent hiring, supervision and training on the part of the department.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of damages for pain and suffering, plus interest and legal costs.

Charley's estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Rael last week.

Wentz did not respond to voice messages and an email seeking comment Monday.

According to the lawsuit and other court records, Questa Municipal Court Judge Michael Rael Sr. struck Charley in August after Taos police removed Charley from the apartment of his partner, Rebecca Suazo, and dropped him off in the parking lot of a Speedway gas station.

Suazo had called police to say Charley was intoxicated and scaring her and her children, according to the lawsuit. She said she just wanted him removed for the night so he could sober up. Officers arrived to find Charley in the bushes outside the apartment, the complaint says, and when one of them asked if he could find another place to stay for the night, he answered "in the weeds."

When pressed, the lawsuit says, Charley said he was from Albuquerque and had no family or friends in the area but would sleep in the "tumbleweeds"

After Suazo asked an officer where Charley would be taken, the lawsuit says, she was told "he will be okay for the night. He'll just be out of here for sure."

At 11:09 p.m., the officer dropped off Charley outside the gas station on Paseo Del Pueblo Norte in El Prado, knowing he was under the influence, had poor eyesight and possessed no money, the lawsuit says.

Surveillance camera footage shows him "walking into the night at 11:11 p.m.," the lawsuit says.

About 45 minutes later, Rael called 911 to report he'd hit a man on the road.

One of the same officers who had responded to the domestic call about an hour earlier was first on the scene, the lawsuit says, and told Taos County Sheriff's deputies he'd dropped Charley off at the gas station because the man said he had family nearby who would pick him up.

The lawsuit cites state laws that call for intoxicated people to be protected rather than subjected to criminal prosecution.