A New Mexico sheriff and his son have been arrested and charged with pistol-whipping and beating a man after a pursuit and depriving him of his civil rights, according to court documents unsealed Friday.
Rio Arriba County Sheriff Thomas Rodella, 56, and his 26-year-old son are accused of pursuing an unidentified man down a highway on March 11, trapping him on a dead-end street and then striking him with a firearm, according to court filings.
As the man "begged not to be shot," Thomas Rodella Jr. threw the man to the ground and screamed, "Don't you know that is the sheriff?" according to court filings.
The victim then asked to see Rodella's badge, and the sheriff allegedly responded by slamming his badge into the victim's eye and shouting "You want to see my badge? Here's my badge, (expletive)."
"A vast majority of law enforcement officers work courageously every day to make our communities safe," New Mexico U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez said in a statement. "Because those in uniform deserve our respect and support, it is vitally important to prosecute officers who violate their oaths of office and the public trust placed in them."
Rodella later had the man, identified only as "M.T.," arrested and said that the man had tried to run him off the road before the altercation.
It was not clear why Rodella and his son were pursuing the man. Calls to the Sheriff's Office for comment were not immediately returned.
Both men pleaded not guilty Friday in federal court in Albuquerque, according to the Associated Press. The sheriff's attorney, Bob Gorence, told a local television station he was confident Rodella would be found not guilty, according to the AP.
"We can't wait to try this, and I expect an inevitable acquittal and vindication," Gorence said.