BELEN, N.M. (KRQE) – A former Belen police officer is the subject of a federal lawsuit filed Monday. The allegations are alarming: having a sexual relationship with a student, but what makes this case even more unusual is that the officer is now deceased.
Mike Esquibel, 45, killed himself in September as a criminal investigation into him intensified. He may be gone, but attorneys say that’s not stopping them from fighting for justice on behalf of a young woman.
For eight years, Esquibel served the community of Belen. He was on the police department and served as a school resource officer. But according to the federal lawsuit, Esquibel had a dark secret, an inappropriate relationship with a student that started when she was in seventh grade.
“He had very serious problems where he abused and exploited his position of authority,” said attorney Michael Hart, who represents the alleged victim.
“He exploited that, and ultimately forced her to do sexual favors for him,” added attorney Kelly Stout Sanchez, another attorney working on the case.
Hart and Stout Sanchez are suing the Belen Consolidated School District, the City of Belen and the estate of Michael Esquibel.
“We have very serious concerns about some of the information that the school district had as well as the police department, the Belen Police Department had about him and what he was doing,” said Hart.
Stout Sanchez added, “She was finally was able to get the courage to confide in a teacher who she really looked up to and felt comfortable with when she was a senior in high school.”
The attorneys say New Mexico State Police investigated after the alleged victim’s mother spoke up fearing Belen Police didn’t do enough to properly investigate. According to a police report, the student detailed inappropriate texts Esquibel sent as well as sexual acts he had with her.
“There were multiple,” Stout Sanchez said of the sexual acts. “There were gaps where he would leave her alone for awhile,” Hart explained. Esquibel denied physical sexual contact when State Police asked him about it.
“He admitted to sending inappropriate text messages and photographs not just to our client but also to other children in the school,” Stout Sanchez said.
Days later, in September 2014, Esquibel took his own life. In a public memorial service, he was remembered as a model officer.
“To hold him up as a model citizen when they knew the seriousness of these allegations and they knew they were true is extremely disconcerting,” Hart said.
The lawsuit said the student suffered physical, emotional and psychological harm, and that the school district and city failed to properly train the officer.
Messages left Monday afternoon with the City of Belen and the Belen Consolidated School District were not returned. ..Source.. by Aaron Drawhorn