This week, two terrible accounts surfaced about police misconduct in New Mexico involving unjustified anal cavity searches. On Tuesday, New Mexico's KOB 4 published a report about a man who, after rolling through a stop sign, was forced by police undergo eight medical procedures—including rectal finger exams, enemas, and a colonoscopy—at a hospital. One day later, KOB reported on a second man ordered to undergo an x-ray and anal cavity search after turning without using his blinker.
The first man, David Eckert, was pulled over in January 2013 after running a stop sign while leaving a Wal-Mart parking in Deming, in southern New Mexico. When he stepped from his vehicle, police claimed he appeared to be "clenching his buttocks," according to Eckert's attorney, Shannon Kennedy. A K-9 named Leo, whose license expired in April 2011, was called to the scene and quickly alerted officers that he smelled drugs on Eckert's seat.
Deming police arrested Eckert and obtained a warrant for an anal cavity search. A doctor at the first hospital they took Eckert to refused to comply with the warrant, calling it "unethical." But doctors at a second hospital, Gila Regional Medical Center, agreed to the search. Here's a list of the procedures performed on Eckert by doctors and three Deming police officers:
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.
No drugs were found, and Eckert was eventually released. He's now suing three Deming police officers, three Hidalgo County sheriff's deputies, and the doctors who performed the procedures.
Awful, right? But just three months before Ekert's ordeal, nearly the exact same thing happen, in the same town, at the same hospital—even the Leo, the unlicensed K-9 dog, was involved.
On October 13, 2012, Timothy Young was stopped by police after he made a turn without using his signal. For reasons that aren't clear, old Leo the K-9 was called to the scene and, just like with Eckert, signaled to police officers that he detected the scent of drugs on Young's car seat. Young was arrested and taken to the same hospital as Eckert, where doctors x-rayed his abdomen and performed a manual anal probe. Again, no drugs were found.
Young has hired Shannon Kennedy, Eckert's attorney, and plans to sue Deming, Hidalgo County, and Gila Hospital.
"If the officers in Hidalgo County and the City of Deming are seeking warrants for anal cavity searches based on how they're standing and the warrant allows doctors at the Gila Hospital of Horrors to go in and do enemas and colonoscopies without consent, then anyone can be seized and that's why the public needs to know about this," Kennedy, told KOB 4.