FARMINGTON — Ralph Cruz says he was celebrating his 65th birthday with friends on Wednesday when a San Juan County Sheriff's Office deputy jumped over the fence of his Crouch Mesa home and shocked him with a Taser, leaving him with bruises and a cut on his head that required 14 stitches.
The sheriff's office is investigating the incident. Capt. Brice Current said the department will release a police report and police dashboard camera video footage of the incident on Tuesday. The name of the deputy involved in the incident has not been released.
As of Saturday, Cruz had not been charged with a crime. Current said police are investigating to see if charges will be filed.
"Ever since, I feel nauseated and weak," Cruz said on Saturday from his hospital bed at San Juan Regional Medical Center.
On Wednesday, Cruz said he invited three friends to his home. He shut and locked the gate at the front of his property to celebrate his birthday, which was six days earlier.
As he was cutting steaks, Cruz said one of his friends told him a deputy was climbing the fence surrounding his property. To get over the fence, Cruz said the deputy climbed a horse trailer from the neighboring property, which Cruz also owns and rents.
The deputy was looking for a woman involved in a possible burglary and trespassing incident, Current said. A resident reported to police the woman may have been burglarizing a property in the area.
Current said the deputy approached Cruz's fence and talked to a man on the other side, who told him the woman was on the property. The deputy asked if he could come over the fence, and the man shrugged his shoulders and walked away, Current said.
When the deputy reached the other side of the fence, Current said Cruz ran at the deputy, screaming.
Cruz said he asked the deputy what he was doing on his property. When the officer explained, Cruz told him the woman wasn't on his property, he said. He also said he told the deputy to "get the hell off my property."
Current said Cruz swung at the deputy, and the officer tried to pin Cruz to the ground. During the struggle, Cruz punched the deputy in the thigh, which prompted the deputy to shock Cruz with his Taser, Current said.
"Screaming and lashing out at officers doesn't solve anything," Current said.
Cruz admitted he pushed the deputy.
"I don't know if he pushed me first or I pushed him first," Cruz said.
Current said Cruz was only hit with a Taser once, but Cruz said he was shocked twice.
Cruz said a second officer joined the first and held him down. He said one of the deputies put his knee on the back of his head and his neck and pushed his face into the gravel, causing bleeding.
One of Cruz's friends called an ambulance, which transported him to the San Juan Regional Medical Center. Cruz said he needed 14 stitches on the right side of his head. He also has scratches on his arms and bruises and cuts on his back.
Cruz had open heart surgery in 1970 to help with his irregular heart beat, and, since 1995, he has had a pacemaker. He said he also suffered a stroke three weeks ago and is concerned having his head pushed to the ground could trigger health complications.
Cruz said if the deputy had asked to talk to him, he would have opened the gate and let the officer onto his land.
"When he jumped the fence, I wasn't in the wrong," he said. "I just told him to get out of there."
Cruz was released from the hospital at about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday but returned to the emergency room Friday afternoon and underwent a computed tomography scan to check for a concussion. While the CT scan didn't show signs of concussion, Cruz said he continued to have a headache Saturday, although the swelling on his eyes had gone down.
"Today at least my eyes are open," he said.
Cruz expects to pay between $20,000 and $25,000 in medical bills. He said he also plans to have a lawyer review the police report and the video.
"They tell me I don't have the right to push an officer, but he didn't have the right to be on my land," Cruz said.
He said he can't understand why the deputy shot him with a Taser, adding that deputies should respect private property.
Current said because deputies were dealing with Cruz they could not question the female burglary suspect, who Current said was on the property. No other information about the alleged burglary was available Saturday.
"If individuals will just communicate with law enforcement and just listen to them, they have lots of opportunities for redress," Current said.
In retrospect, Cruz said he should not have gotten mad and pushed the officer. But, he maintains, he was treated unfairly.
"I think I had a right," he said. "It's just like me breaking into your house."
Even from his hospital bed, Cruz managed to find some humor in the situation.
"The worst thing is, I didn't get to have no steak," he said.