FARMINGTON — Four Native American families recently filed lawsuits against a Farmington bar and local law enforcement and allege a history of racially motivated violence and abuse of power.

The defendants say the allegations in the lawsuits have tarnished their image and reputations.

On Wednesday, two Native American families filed lawsuits against the San Juan County Sheriff's Office, Farmington police and individual officers from both agencies that said law enforcement abused its power when an elderly Navajo couple and their three grandchildren were detained while police searched for a car thief.

Last week, a Navajo family filed a lawsuit against Top Deck and several of its bouncers saying the club's employees have a history of racially-motivated beatings against Native Americans.

Another Navajo family filed a lawsuit against Top Deck on Thursday. The lawsuit stems from the same incident.

Justin Curley and his wife, Winona Rose Curley, filed the most recent lawsuit.

Justin Curley said his nose was broken when he was kicked in the face by a Top Deck bouncer on March 17, 2012. Justin's brother, Dustin Curley, and his wife, Veronica Curley, filed the lawsuit against the club and its bouncers last week.

Dustin Curley said he was badly beaten and has permanent vision problems because of the incident.

Mitchell Burns, a lawyer representing the Curley's, said at least one more person who was assaulted by the club's bouncers will be filing a lawsuit in coming weeks.


Burns said local attorneys are also investigating other racially-motivated assaults to determine if additional lawsuits will be filed.

Burns said he is also investigating allegations of violence at the club that date back to 2010.

"We have to be proactive to keep our community safe," Burns said. "No one should have to worry about going to a local business to have a beer and having their night ending in a helicopter going to the hospital because they have the wrong skin tone."

The lawsuit names the bar's owners, Susan and Matthew Douglas, and two of the bar's bouncers, Tyler Black and Dustin Jacobs.

Black said the accusations have unfairly damaged his reputation.

He said he can't find new work, he's been harassed, his vehicle has been spat on and he's been sent into depression.

"I feel like I am in defensive mode trying to convince the public that I am not a racist skin head," he said in an email.

Local law enforcement officials said the allegations made against them in the lawsuit were damaging and unsubstantiated.

The allegations are serious and need to be tried in court, said County Commissioner GloJean Todacheene, who represents the Shiprock area on the commission.

"When you start throwing those things at each other, it damages communities, departments and community leaders," she said.

She said she hopes the people accused in the lawsuits use it as a chance to improve themselves.

"Do you react emotionally and take offense or do you look at it say We need to work on this'," she said.