ROCKY FORD, Colo. -- The family of a Colorado man, shot and killed by a former Rocky Ford officer, has filed a lawsuit against the city, former Rocky Ford Police Chief, Frank Gallegos and the cop who killed him.
In June, James Ashby became the first Colorado cop convicted of murder while on-duty in at least two decades for shooting and killing Jack Jacquez in his mother's kitchen in 2014.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Colorado District Court on Tuesday afternoon, says Rocky Ford should never have hired Ashby in the first place and accuses the department of hiring "second-chance cops without any vetting."
"They basically hired this guy, handed him a badge and a gun and said, 'go police,'" said John Lee III, one several attorneys representing the family.
The lawsuit says complaints against Ashby started long before Rocky Ford hired him in 2014. It details at least 6 excessive force and or citizen complaints against Ashby during his employment at the Walsenburg Police Department (WPD). He worked there from January of 2009 until 2013 when he resigned during the investigation of an excessive force complaint.
"Based on his record at WPD, Officer Ashby was not eligible for rehire," the complaint says.
The lawsuit goes onto say Rocky Ford failed to adequately screen officer Ashby before hiring him on June 23, 2014. It says former Rocky Ford Police Chief, Frank Gallegos, was told by the Walsenburg Police Chief, that Ashby had been the subject of "several internal affairs investigations and that he was not eligible for rehire with the WPD," but hired him anyway.
"If they had just bothered to listen to the people they hired to do his background check, they would've never hired him and never let him roam the streets," Lee said. "The sad reality is, if it hadn't been Jack Jacquez, it would've been another citizen of Rocky Ford."
Problems for Ashby started immediately after he began working in Rocky Ford. According to the lawsuit, the department failed to properly train Ashby on excessive force, constitutional rights or how to apply for a warrant.
Ashby, the lawsuit says, already had several complaints against him just four months into his job at Rocky Ford, two of which happened in the week before he followed Jacquez home and shot him in the back. It also details other excessive force and civilian complaints the department didn't take seriously. It says officers were rarely investigated or disciplined.
"We're hoping that this lawsuit can open a dialogue between the citizens of Rocky Ford and its government and specifically the police department, so the police department will hopefully hear them and make changes and hire quality police officers to police the streets of Rocky Ford," Lee said.
Ashby was convicted of second-degree murder in June. He's set to be sentenced on October 28th. He faces up to 48 years in prison.