When the supervisor of the Albuquerque Police Department’s
Cold Case Squad criticized the grieving mother of a homicide victim for
questioning the actions of “an impeccable police department,” the families of
over a dozen
Police in New Mexico have a long and on-going track record of murder, bank robbery, kidnapping, extortion, sex crimes, burglary, drug dealing, aggravated battery, auto theft, fraud, brutality, entrapment, the planting and/or destruction of evidence, intimidation of witnesses, and – above all – the cover-up of crimes committed by police officers. According to the battered wife of Deputy Scott Finley, a member of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department’s elite Crime Suppression Unit, when she threatened to call 911 to report a vicious beating, her husband’s response was: “Go ahead and call. How can you break the law when you are the law?”
This corruption is in no way limited to cops on the street.
It exists at management levels and extends to the very top echelons of
v Lt. John B. Gallegos, supervisor of the APD Internal Affairs Unit, was caught burglarizing a liquor store while on duty.
v Deputy Darryl Burt, senior officer in the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department Gang Unit, was charged with kidnapping, criminal sexual penetration, and other felonies in connection with the traffic stop of a 24-yr-old male, as well as 34 counts of sexual assault and extortion of a 16-yr-old boy. He was also found guilty of drug trafficking charges.
v APD Officer Andrew LeHocky sicced his 80-pound attack dog on a homeless woman who was asleep at the time. This was the same Andrew LeHocky who had just been named “Officer of the Month.”
§ APD Sgt. Mike Garcia, supervisor of officers assigned to public schools, was indicted on sex charges involving a 12-yr-old girl who was staying the night with one of his daughters. (When he was tried in 2004, the jury was deadlocked, and the prosecutors did not seek a retrial.)
v The APD Intelligence Unit, under the supervision of Sgt. Joseph Polisar, was accused of illegally creating and maintaining secret dossiers on innocent political figures. The only possible use for such dossiers would be to exert influence and pressure on those politicians. When the existence of the dossiers became known, they were burned to prevent their inspection. Sgt. Polisar was subsequently elevated to Chief of Police.
The following abbreviated overview of corruption in
A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF LAW
ENFORCEMENT IN THE “
Highlighted entries represent a selection of cases from the
New Mexico Justice Packet, a compilation of reports by families of
9/80: APD Officer Joseph Polisar, (who later became Albuquerque Police Chief) was assigned to investigate the death of his friend, Phil Chacon, killed in the line of duty during a bank robbery. Polisar’s two-day investigation led to a civil rights suit against him and two other officers for planting evidence and coercing witnesses in an attempt to convict Van Robinson, a black male. In 1985, Robinson was acquitted, and a Federal Grand Jury awarded him $75,000. (Before Polisar was made police chief, the findings against him were reversed.)
9/81: APD undercover officers, John Hearn and Greg Avila,
were working a suspected vehicle theft ring when they got into a shootout with
one of the suspects, Frank Minott.
Minott testified that he shot at Officer Avila in self-defense after
Thanksgiving Day, 1984: State Police Officer Matt Griffin
attempted to force his way into Febye Garcia’s mobile home as the family was
sitting down to dinner. When Garcia
1/12/86: LINDA DANIELS ABDUCTION AND HOMICIDE: Linda was abducted for use in porno films, raped, tortured, and then shot to death. James Scartaccini, the one of Linda’s abductors that evidence indicated was her killer, was allowed to plea bargain by testifying against his companions. The police and the DA prosecutor “lost” all evidence against Scartaccini, including his sperm sample, which was later found on the DA prosecutor’s desk. Scartaccini served no time at all.
1987: APD Officer Toby Gallegos was given a 20-day suspension for unjustifiably shooting a teen-ager he was chasing on foot.
3/88: APD rehired Officer Matt Griffin after his attorney
cut a deal with the city. Police Chief
Sam Baca later stated that he didn’t want to rehire
7/88: A 9 mm Glock semiautomatic handgun disappeared from the Police Department’s evidence room while APD Officer Matt Griffin was assigned to guard it.
1989: The Albuquerque Police Department was sued by a citizen’s group that wanted access to the APD intelligence files to see whether they contained evidence of unconstitutional police investigation of political figures who were not under suspicion of wrong doing. The police had the intelligence files burned one half hour before a federal judge issued a restraining order to prevent their destruction.
12/89: Police Chief Sam Baca informed an INS agent that Kaitlyn Arquette was killed by a Vietnamese gang. The homicide department then closed the Arquette case as a random shooting by Hispanic subjects. DA Bob Schwartz refused to prosecute the Hispanics due to a lack of evidence and because APD’s “eye-witness” was in jail on the night of the murder. Schwartz directed the police to investigate the Vietnamese suspects. The police did not do so.
Chief Sam Baca left APD, and was replaced by Chief Bob Stover.
10/12/90: Armed with a warrant obtained thru false information, Narcotics Detective Stan Gloria, Lieutenant Hughes, SGT Bartram (sic- Bertram), Officers R. Vasquez, R. Jeffrey, W. Jones, E. Sauer, B. Snow, A. Lehocky, Lieutanant Bourgoine, S. Gray, S. Rodriguez, H. Terry, T. McWhorter, C. Lopez and four US NAVY SEALS went to the home of Manuel Ramirez, at about 4:30 a.m. There they attached a cable to a tow truck and pulled the wrought iron front door off the Ramirez residence, while other personnel simultaneously broke all of the windows of the Ramirez home. As Ramirez reached for a handgun, (which wasn’t loaded), the collection of officers entered unannounced and dressed in black and shot Ramirez twice in the chest. They ransacked the family home, while Ramirez lay dead in his living room and his grieving family sat in the back of an APD Patrol Car. No drugs were found in the residence until 48 hours after the break in. The Ramirez's infant was injured in his crib by flying glass. Ramirez’s widow filed a lawsuit against the City in 1992 and received a $275,000 settlement.
9-10/91: LINK TO THE KAITLYN ARQUETTE HOMICIDE: An informant
told APD that the auto-body shop on
1993: APD Officer Toby Gallegos was fired by Police Chief Bob Stover for hitting a
car-chase suspect in the back of the head with his nightstick. Gallegos said he didn’t remember doing that, and the firing was rescinded in favor of a 60-day suspension.
1995: APD Officer Toby Gallegos was fired by Chief Joseph Polisar, who labeled him a “brutal cop” for hitting a suspect several times with his large metal flashlight and kicking him in the groin. A city hearing officer ruled the firing justified, but it was later overturned. Gallegos returned to work and collected $35,627 back wages from his termination date to his reinstatement date.
1/6/96:TYRONE TSOSIE SUSPICIOUS DEATH (Navajo Tribal Criminal Investigators): Tyrone was found comatose on the side of the Frontage Road just off of I-40 fifteen miles east of Gallup. His wallet was missing. He was flown to the UNM Hospital in Albuquerque where he was pronounced brain dead. Police told Tyrone’s mother, Bertha Begay, that her son “got tired and lay down on the side of the side of the road and a car ran over him.” They said the car was so hot that his nylon jacket melted onto his body. Bertha obtained a copy of the autopsy report and discovered the cause of death was “undetermined” and Tyrone’s only injury was a blunt force blow to the back of the head. Tyrone’s family believes he was killed during an argument with someone he knew and that family members of the killer dumped his body. Police said they were “too swamped” to investigate the case, so Bertha hired private investigators. Tyrone’s wallet was eventually found in the possession of his estranged girlfriend, Veronica Scott. Bertha is a single parent of four, and Tyrone’s medical and funeral bills drained her financially. She spent her weekends fund-raising at flea markets in order to pay her private investigators. She couldn’t keep it up, and they dropped off the case.
03/27/96: APD Officer Andres Lehocky was sued for allowing or ordering an attack dog to bite and maul Isaac Ortiz. As with the two previous suits, this lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed sum of money.
8/96: Former BCSO Deputies Darryl Burt, (once an undercover narcotics agent) and Michael Disney were taken into federal custody as the result of drug raids in their homes, after being videotaped selling drugs in a parking lot across from Eldorado High School. Both men were working at The Wild Side, Disney’s drug paraphernalia shop. At the time of the raid at Burt’s house, Burt and a 17-yr-old male took off through the bedroom window, both wearing only boxer shorts. A loaded 45-caliber handgun, a Fix-A-Flat can filled with cocaine, and a BCSO badge and credentials were among the items found in Burt’s garage. Both Burt and Disney later pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute. The men were described as partners in a heavily armed El Paso-to-Albuquerque drug trafficking operation. Burt was sentenced to 2 years and 9 months on a cocaine distribution conviction in US District Court.
9/5/96: Albuquerque’s Public Safety Advisory Board said it planned to find out if the Albuquerque Police Department's SWAT Team had a pattern of using excessive force.
11/6/96: APD Officer Brad Ahrensfield stopped motorist Kevin Lamkin and informed him there were warrants out for his arrest. Lamkin presented paperwork that proved the warrants had already been cleared up, but Ahrensfield allegedly crumbled them up, resorted to name-calling and abusive handling of Lamkin, and arrested him anyway. Lamkin’s case against Ahrensfield was settled out of court for $2,000.
3/18/97: The City Council commissioned an independent study to be undertaken “in the context of a serious and ongoing community crisis regarding the performance of the APD, particularly with reference to the fatal shootings of citizens.” The report confirmed that "The City of Albuquerque suffers from serious problems related to fatal shootings by APD officers and extremely high tort claims involving police officers.” The study also disclosed that the city set aside $4 million a year to settle claims against APD, “which is way out of line with larger cities with larger forces.”
APD Chief Polisar disputed the 163 page report, but said he did not read it all the way through.
5/25/97: APRIL MILLER DEATH (Albq. PD): Nine years after the death of her sister, Spring, (see Spring Miller Case”), April Miller vanished. April last visited her mother, Dianna Miller, on May 15, upset and crying, because her boyfriend had been arrested. April called her mother twice during the following week, just to check in. In her second call, on May 23, she said she was at the home of a friend named “Roland.” Dianna never heard from her again. On June 11, Dianna called APD to report April missing. Police took her information but did not inform her that an anonymous caller had reported April dead in an alley behind the parole office on May 25. APD Officer Todd Babcock, who knew April from a recent encounter, had identified April at the scene. April also had her name tattooed on her neck. The tags on April’s belongings bag and toxicology report all indicate that she was immediately identified as April Miller. Yet, the police report listed April as “Jane Doe,” and Dianna was not informed of her daughter’s death for six weeks. April reportedly died of a drug overdose. There was no investigation. The mysterious “Roland” was not interrogated, although the tipster’s call to police was made from a gas station a couple of blocks from Roland’s residence.
1997: Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Estrada was convicted of embezzlement for taking more than $730 worth of shirts from Dillard’s Department Store where he was moonlighting as a security officer.
6/14/97: The District Attorney’s office entered into the investigation of APD Chief Joseph Polisar after a city worker, Victor Gallegos, filed a criminal complaint that Polisar cursed at him and handcuffed him too forcefully during a traffic stop. Chief Polisar denied that accusation.
10/12/97: APD Officer Brad Ahrensfield stopped at a scene where a vehicle was stopped on a median, used pepper spray on the passenger, Steven Salazar, and allegedly kicked him in the stomach when Salazar refused to lie on the ground. The incident was settled for $10,000.
10/26/97: APD Officer Brad Ahrensfield was one of several officers outside an Albuquerque home during the arrest of Jim Vigin Jr. Virgin’s father protested the rough treatment of his son and decided to get a video camera from inside the house. Ahrensfield allegedly tackled Vigil Sr. “with such force that he was thrown into the bushes” and stepped on his hand and wrist, causing a wrist fracture. The City settled the suit for $25,000.
12/5/97: Albuquerque Journal: COP UNION GIVES BACA WARNING -- Albuquerque Police Officers Association President Alex Marentes said of new mayor Jim Baca, “If he screws with us, we will do everything possible to defeat him in the next election.”
12/9/97: Incoming Bernalillo County DA Jeff Romero claimed his office was forced to drop prosecutions because his predecessor, DA Bob Schwartz, never sent the cases for indictment. Romero said about 200 outdated drug cases that should have been sent to the Grand Jury were found “rat-holed” in Schwartz’s former office, a fact that almost caused the DA’s office to lose a $200,000 federal grant for drug prosecutions. Schwartz denied any knowledge of the stash of drug cases.
11/19/97: PAUL FITZJERRELL HOMICIDE, (Gallup PD): Paul was shot and killed. Gallup Police Officer Mike Brandau was indicted. The ranking officer at the scene, Calvin Wiggins, conducted both the homicide investigation and the internal affairs investigation. When the case went to court, police mixed information from Brandau’s Garrity-protected Internal Affairs statement in with the case information, thereby contaminating the case and making it impossible for Brandau to be prosecuted. Brandau stated that the Fraternal Order of Police counsels all their members to insist on Garrity whenever they are accused of crimes. “By doing so you will ensure that your statements and reports cannot be used as evidence against you in any proceedings,” says the FOB guide sheet. “Our advice is that we all use the procedure all the time.” Special prosecutor, Bob Schwartz, stated on television, “Because the police didn’t keep the Internal Affairs investigation and the criminal investigation separate, this case is so infected that you can never disinfect it. It may not be possible for this case to ever go forward again because of the actions of the police department.” (Details about this case must be withheld at this time because the family of the victim has launched a civil suit.)
12/21/97: APD Officer Brad Ahrensfield was alleged to have dragged a patron out of a nightclub, used pepper spray on him, and shoved him to the ground with such force that he shattered the man’s right wrist. The case was settled for $40,000.
12/26/97: Mayor Jim Baca announced his plan for a Citizens Review Board to investigate complaints against the Albuquerque Police Department. “The police department has to be accountable to somebody besides themselves,” Mayor Baca said. Alex Marentes, the police union president, argued that citizen review boards were “ineffective” and could be “bureaucratic, expensive and potentially controversial … Civilian investigators may lack an understanding of police sub-cultural norms.”
1/10/98: JOSH VIHEL SUSPICIOUS DEATH (Albq. PD): Josh, 16, died at a party. The official cause of death was “alcohol poisoning,” but he also had a bruise on his forehead, his nose was leaking blood, and money was missing from his wallet. Josh’s body was removed from the party house and taken to the apartment of one of the party guests, who didn’t report the death until the next afternoon. The first officer at the scene called in a report of a “suspicious death” and criminalistics was dispatched to the scene. An informant contacted the family with information that GHB (date rape drug) was slipped into Josh’s drink. Since GHB leaves the victim’s system in twelve hours, it would not show up in an autopsy. The family located the party house, which police said they couldn’t find, and were told by neighbors that the adult males who lived there, Chris and Scott Leonard, threw frequent parties where they charged cover fees and sold liquor and drugs to minors. APD refused to interrogate the Leonard brothers, explaining that the DA advised against it. Josh’s parents filed a civil suit against the Leonards and insisted on taking the case to court in order to learn more about what happened. In a deposition, Chris Leonard stated that he had several friends and a cousin on the police force. (For personal reasons, this family does not wish to be interviewed.)
1/14/98: GABINO GEORGE VENEGAS HOMICIDE (NM State Police): Gabino was killed by a hit-and-run driver while riding his bicycle home from work. Gabino’s parents, who lived out of state, asked Gabino’s sister in Albuquerque to keep them advised about the progress of the investigation. The NM State Police reacted with hostility to the sister’s questions and attempted to intimidate her by accusing her of interfering with the investigation. In truth, there was no investigation. The family’s PI discovered that three witnesses had seen two vehicles speeding from the scene. Evidence indicated that the first vehicle struck Gabino on his bicycle and knocked him into the path of the second vehicle. Witnesses identified the first car as a law enforcement vehicle, possibly Sheriff’s Dept. The PI was able to match the paint transfer on the bicycle with the make and year of the second vehicle and submitted a request for an MVD printout of the owners of such cars in a two-county area. NMSP ordered MVD not to comply with that legal request. The family filed a tort claim notice against NMSP, as they suspected investigators were covering up for a fellow cop. Police promised the family and their attorney that, if they withdrew the tort claim notice, NMSP would thoroughly investigate Gabino’s death. The family withdrew the notice. The case was not further investigated. The family’s PI believes that he has now identified and located the car that killed Gabino, but the DA’s office won’t agree to reopen the case.
1/15/98: STEPHEN HAAR HOMICIDE (Albq. PD): Steve died from gunshot wounds to the stomach and back. Two guns were used. The OMI has stated that one shot was fired by someone standing over him when he was already down. Police released a statement that Steve was found dead in the street with a shotgun lying next to him. In truth, he was found inside the residence of a man who is reportedly an APD snitch. Steve’s mother, Carmen Haar, found a note in Steve’s pocket warning him about a contract and naming the alleged snitch. In the course of an arrest by a Valencia County detective for an unrelated shooting, Travis Dally (a friend of the alleged snitch) confessed to killing Steve. APD dismissed the shooting as self-defense without even obtaining Dally’s taped confession from Valencia County. APD homicide Det. Damon Fay (see “Melanie McCracken Case”) told Carmen that APD would not charge Dally, but would forward the case to the DA’s Office. In Sept. 02, Carmen contacted the DA’s Office to inquire why charges hadn’t yet been filed. She was told the DA’s Office had no file on Steve’s case. As of today, Dally still has not been charged. Steve is the third of Carmen’s children to be murdered.
2/16/98: APD Officer Andrew LeHocky sicced his Belgian Malinois attack dog, Bart, on Nestor Chavez, a fleeing suspect. After the dog bit Nestor Chavez once and Lehocky had verified that Chavez was unarmed, Lehocky ordered Bart to attack a second time causing serious damage to Chavez’s right lower leg. In the interim Albuquerque mayor, Martin Chavez, declared that no police misconduct cases would settle. The case went to trial and, on April 25, 2003, a jury in the federal court in Albuquerque found Lehocky liable for violating Mr. Chavez’s Fourth Amendment rights and awarded nominal damages. In Aug., 03, a federal judge overturned the jury verdict, because Chavez had lied about being a suspect in a break-in earlier that morning.
4/14/98: Incoming Albuquerque mayor, Jim Baca (the same person who blew the whistle on the APD Intelligence Unit, see 5/10/87) replaced APD Chief Polisar (former officer in charge of that Intelligence Unit) with Gerald Galvin, police chief from Toledo, Ohio, in a reported effort to “clean up the Albuquerque Police Department.”
4/23/98: Chief State District Judge John Brennan criticized the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department for losing evidence in a first-degree murder case, including the victim’s clothing and five bullets pulled from his body.
4/25/98: Lawrence Candelaria, Identification Tech at APD, (processes fingerprints and takes mug shots), was charged with intent to distribute narcotics. Earlier in the year, Candelaria compromised an arrest warrant when he warned the target, his brother Leonard, that police were about to search his home. When a second warrant was served, police found heroin packaged for distribution. Lawrence Candelaria was arrested for conspiracy to traffic in heroin; Leonard Candelaria was booked for possession of heroin.
6/18/98: Albuquerque Journal: THE CITIZENS OF ALBUQUERQUE ARE AFRAID OF THEIR COPS -- That was the message the City Council heard during a special meeting to get public input on a recently completed study of who should police the Albuquerque Police Department … Paul Harper, co-director of Albuquerque Citizens on Police Accountability, said APD has proven cops can’t police themselves. “It’s like having the fox guard the hen house” said Harper, whose son Larry was killed by police officers.
6/25/98: Katherine Teupell was awarded a $235,000 settlement for claims against the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department and the Albuquerque Police Department for their use of a “We don’t do blue” policy in dealing with an officer accused of beating his wife. Teupell alleged police extended “professional courtesy” to her husband, Scott Finley, a member of the Sheriff Department’s elite Crime Suppression Unit. Teupell testified she fled from her home with her children, 6 and 2, still in pajamas, on the night of Oct. 18, 1993, after Finley beat her. Teupell said that when she threatened to call police, Finley responded, “Go ahead and call. How can you break the law when you are the law?" Although the APD officer who responded to the call confiscated Finley's police revolver, other officers who took over at the scene returned it.
6/28/98: APD Officer Brad Ahrensfield was alleged to have punched motorist Kippy Rhoten in the face five times after pulling him over to tell him to turn his car stereo down. A Metro Court judge ruled Ahrensfield innocent, but the City Attorney’s office ended up paying a settlement of $20,000
7/1/98: TERESA REYES, MISSING AND PRESUMED DEAD (Albq. PD): Teresa, 17, disappeared from the family home during the night. Police dubbed her a run-away, despite the fact that she took nothing with her, not even her wallet or crucially important medications. Since APD refused to investigate, Teresa’s mother, also named Teresa Reyes, sought help from other sources – ID Resource Center, Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Mayor’s Office, and the FBI. Those agencies would contact APD, who would assure them Teresa was a runaway and would come home when she was ready. In 2002, a PI received information that, on the night Teresa vanished, she met three strange men in a parking lot, who invited her to a party. Teresa wrote their phone number on a paper napkin with her lipstick. Teresa’s parents believe that Teresa sneaked out later to attend the party and met with foul play. Soon after that, Mrs. Reyes was mending a hole in Teresa’s favorite stuffed doll and found the napkin with the phone number hidden in the doll. The number was unlisted and no longer in service. The APD Missing Persons Dept. told Mrs. Reyes to have her PI fax all the case information to an APD detective. The PI did so, but nobody responded. Mrs. Reyes wrote to the police chief, begging his assistance. He didn’t respond. She, then, appealed to the Police Oversight Commission, and the police finally came to pick up the napkin. Three more years have now passed. Mrs. Reyes says, “Every time the phone rings my heart starts to pound, and I tell myself, ‘Maybe the police have been able to trace that phone number!’ But it’s never the police. I don’t think they remember who we are.”
8/19/98: The City of Rio Rancho settled with Bob and Frances James for an undisclosed amount after four police officers shot their son David to death as he stood on his parents’ front porch. Officers said they believed David was brandishing a gun. In truth he was holding a ceramic cross.
9/2/98: The family of Larry Harper was awarded a $200,000 settlement in a federal lawsuit claiming excessive force by police after family members called police to the Elena Gallegos picnic area for aid in subduing Harper, who was threatening to kill himself. After assuring the family that they were there only to talk to Harper, the APD SWAT-team shot Harper to death. “They told us the officers were only carrying ‘non-lethal rounds,’” said Larry’s brother, James Harper.
9/98: Albuquerque Tribune: The newly formed Police Oversight Commission is unable to function because of lack of cooperation from the Albuquerque Police Department. Although citizens have the right to appeal to the commission, which can offer its recommendations to the police chief, the chief does not have to act on those recommendations. Chief Galvin has never once gone along with a commission recommendation for increased discipline of an officer, and no officer named in a citizen complaint has ever shown up for a hearing. “We’ve been stonewalled,” the commission chairman told the media.
10/16/98: Albuquerque Journal: Former BCSO deputy Darryl Burt, now a federal inmate, has instigated a civil rights suit against the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department claiming he is owed back pay and benefits denied him after he was charged with 34 counts of sexual assault and extortion of a 16-yr-old boy. In 7/99 a federal judge dismissed the suit.
10/24/98: Albuquerque Police Detective Cisco Martinez was accused of entrapment for hiring two girls from an escort service to come to his motel room and dance nude, which is not illegal. However, he then attempted get the women to touch his genital area and to allow him to fondle them. When they refused, stating that this would be illegal, he had them busted for prostitution anyway. The women were found innocent in court.
12/13/98: RAMONA DURAN SUSPICIOUS DEATH (Albq. PD) – Ramona was found dead of a drug overdose in the apartment of Thomas Green and Ricky Pike. The men told police the three had drunk beer and smoked crack all night. Yet an autopsy revealed no alcohol in Ramona’s system. The first officer at the scene reported a strong odor of gas and advised his sergeant it was a suspicious death. Two officers reported bruises on Ramona’s arms above the elbows, and a neighbor reported hearing a woman screaming. Ramona’s sister, Valerie Duran, believes Ramona was sedated with gas and forcibly injected with a lethal drug overdose. She confirms that Ramona once had a drug problem, but says she had turned her life around. At the time of her death Ramona was on supervised probation and enrolled in an out patient substance abuse program with regular testing. Her probation officer has stated that Ramona remained clean. Ramona had told family members that she feared for her life because she had fingered certain VIPs in the drug trade and police had leaked information that she was a snitch. Police will not allow Ramona’s family to view the scene photos or to speak with the officers at the scene or to the men in whose apartment Ramona died.
12/27/98: JOHN SHERMAN SUSPICIOUS DEATH (Sandoval County Sheriff’s Dept.): John was found in Rio Rancho, slashed and stabbed to death in the front seat of his van. Members of the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Department transferred John’s body to the back of the van before taking crime scene photos and insist his death was a suicide, despite the finding of “homicide” by the former head of forensics at the Menninger clinic, who stated, “This wasn’t just murder – this was over-kill!” When John’s mother sought to have the case reopened she was informed that John’s case file had been destroyed.
2/26/99: APD Officer Andrew Lehocky released his police dog, Bart, on an unarmed teenager, Moriah Smith, who was hiding in a school yard after a boy she met at a party fired a gun and frightened her. Bart was supposedly sent in to locate Moriah and “guard and bark” to let Officers know where she was hiding. Instead, Bart ran into the schoolyard, located Moriah and immediately attacked her. Bart never bothered—or was ordered not—to bark. The attack left Moriah with four deep wounds that required three surgeries and a skin graft. Lehocky stated his supervisor, Sgt. Tom Garduno, told him, "Good job. I'm glad nobody died." A federal jury subsequently found Lehocky liable for the Moriah Smith attack. Lehocky was ordered to pay the $50,000 necessary to partially remove scars. Lehocky contended that Moriah must be a “bad” girl because his dog, Bart, would only bite “bad” people.
4/3/99: Albuquerque Journal: Former Sheriff’s Deputy, Michael Lee Disney, appeared before a US Magistrate on charges that he threatened DEA Agent Mike Marshall because of Marshall’s testimony against him.
4/15/99: STEPHANE MURPHEY HOMICIDE: Stephane was raped and strangled to death in her home in Rio Rancho. Her decomposed body was found four days later in her car, which was parked at an apartment complex in Albuquerque. APD and the Rio Rancho DPS were in conflict over who had jurisdiction. Eventually the Rio Rancho DPS claimed the case, despite the fact that they had no homicide department. It was only after years of relentless pressure by Stephane's family that RRDPS replaced the case investigator with one who was willing to submit the DNA evidence for testing. As a direct result of that testing, David F. Bologh was arrested and arraigned. Bond has been set at $1 million. (The family does not wish to be interviewed until after the trial.)
7/99: Albuquerque Journal - APD MODIFIES USE OF RUSE OPERATIONS – The APD SWAT-team had an officer pose as a burglar holed up in a car near the home of a murder suspect (a 12-year-old girl, Jade Gonzales, who had shot her father and claimed it was an accident). The SWAT team used the ruse of the fictional burglar to evacuate residents and secretly place an electronic eavesdropping device inside the Gonzales home. APD Chief Galvin said no officers were disciplined over the Jade Gonzales incident because they were following the department's standard operating procedures, but promised those procedures would be changed. Det. Steve Hall, one of the officers involved in that ruse, was named “Officer of the Month.”
Children’s Court Judge Tommy Jewell sharply criticized APD for stripping the 12-yr-old of her basic rights. Jewell found that the detectives didn't advise Jade of any rights, before or after they interrogated her without her mother or attorney present. Jewell wrote that Jade was the victim of "shocking, outrageous, and clearly intolerable" violations of her rights.
8/31/99: Former Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Estrada was convicted of retaliating against a witness who testified against him in 1997, when he was convicted of embezzlement.
9/3/99: Albuquerque Tribune: Retired APD Officer Philip Otero was arrested for impersonating an on-duty officer, stealing a motorist's money, and trying to bilk a 76-yr-old woman out of $2,000 casino earnings by going to her door and telling her to hand over the money because it might be counterfeit.
11/20/99: Albuquerque Tribune: A boot mark across the bridge of her boyfriend’s nose, due to a beating by Albuquerque Police Officers, caused Diane Holquist to call a special meeting of the Police Oversight Commission. Holquist charged excessive brutality that went unpunished when the officers were cleared by a police internal affairs investigation. Holquist attempted to enlist the help of the Commission to mandate that all officers involved in internal affairs complaints take lie detector tests. “It is the last chance for citizens to be assured of credibility from the police force,” she said. Holquist had gathered over 1,000 signatures on a petition seeking mandatory lie detector tests. The Police Oversight Commission did not have the power to help her in this matter.
12/7/99: BENEDICT ESQUIVEL HOMICIDE (Albq. PD): Benny, 14, was the victim of a gang-related shooting in 1992. He was shot in the neck and survived seven and a half years as a quadriplegic before he died of complications from respirator use. Benny’s father, Juan Esquivel, says two girls came to the hospital immediately after the shooting and told him the names of the killers and the motel where they were holed up. Juan gave that information to Det. Ronald Merriman, (see “Kaitlyn Arquette Case” and “Curtis Lindsey Case), who told Juan he hand-delivered the information to the APD Gang Squad. No investigation was done, and police now claim they never received the information. After Benny died, police told reporters they would reopen the case as a homicide and start tracking down witnesses. They now claim that the case is too old to investigate.
2/27/00: STEPHANIE HOUSTON HOMICIDE (NM State Police): Stephanie died when her jealous and abusive boyfriend, Patrick Murillo, ran her over with his truck after he saw her dancing with another man. OMI urged that the death be investigated as a homicide. Within days, scene investigator, Mark McCracken, (see “Melanie McCracken Case”), was telling the media that NMSP had fully investigated the case and Stephanie caused her own death because she was falling-down drunk. In truth, they had questioned no witnesses, done no reconstruction, and the toxicology test showed Stephanie had consumed about one beer. Stephanie’s father, Bill Houston, conducted his own investigation, questioning witnesses and accumulating information. In July 2002, Bill was charged with stalking because of his efforts to acquire information about Murillo. In May 2003, an investigative reporter exposed NMSP’s mishandling of the case, accusing them of glossing over possible domestic violence and failing to follow fundamental investigative techniques including never conducting an accident reconstruction. The case was then reopened and in Dec. 2003, Murillo was indicted for vehicular homicide
4/10/00: APD Officer Andrew Lehocky was sent with other officers to respond to a call that resident Jimmy Castillo had threatened to commit suicide. As Mr. Castillo walked from his residence, unarmed, on the order of the police (who had promised him that his pastor was outside waiting for him), Lehocky unleashed his attack dog, Bart, and issued the “fass” (attack command). The attack resulted in serious bites on Mr. Castillo’s ankles, thighs, and calves.
4/23/00: APD Officer Tom Benard committed “aggravated battery with a deadly weapon” by beating a handcuffed homicide suspect with a metal baton. (It was later confirmed that the suspect was the wrong person.) The suspect sustained head injuries. A police belt tape recorded Benard telling a colleague, “I popped him one good in the head for you.” An Internal Affairs Investigation found sufficient evidence to support allegations of excessive force.
4/25/00 APD Officer Andrew Lehocky burst into a private residence, with no search warrant, because a “meth” lab was supposedly inside. His attack dog, “Bart,” was then sent in and attacked Maureen Patterson-Montgomery, while she was sitting in her bathtub, terrified.
5/29/00 APD Officer Andrew Lehocky intercepted a call for a routine officer response to a reported neighbor disturbance. Arriving on the scene, Lehocky believed that one neighbor, David Chamberlain, threw some garbage at him. Lehocky responded by ordering his dog, Bart, to attack. Bart, however, refused to attack and maul the unresisting man. Lehocky then pulled Mr. Chamberlin out of a parked car, slammed him on the ground, picked Bart up, placed Bart with his muzzle to Chamberlin’s legs and, again, ordered Bart to attack. Bart attacked while Lehocky began dragging Chamberlain on the ground. Mr. Chamberlin received serious injury to his legs, back, and stomach.
6/1/00: Albuquerque Journal: JUDGE REFUSES TO QUASH EX-APD SGT’S SUIT AGAINST CITY-- A federal judge rejected a request to throw out a 1999 lawsuit alleging APD retaliated against former police sergeant David Guzman for speaking out against alleged discrimination and misconduct. Guzman, who took early retirement after 22 years with APD, mostly with a unit dealing with drug interdiction, alleged he was passed over six times for promotion to lieutenant and transferred to a section consisting of street-level detectives because he was an outspoken member of two unions representing Hispanic officers and because he complained about alleged police misconduct. The lawsuit said Guzman told supervisors about an APD captain involved in a domestic dispute involving a gun. He said, during that investigation, he found 58 phone calls made from the captain's home to a known drug dealer and that officers severely beat up a drug informant.
7/9/00: Albuquerque Journal: APD Officer Robert Middleton chased pedestrian, William Lancaster, 18, and ran over him with his police car, causing numerous broken bones and brain damage. Lancaster was suspected of planning to shoplift a six-pack of beer.
9/5/00: APD Officer Andrew LeHocky sicced his 80-pound attack dog, Bart, on Eddie Mae Patterson, an unarmed homeless woman who was asleep at the time. Another city officer allegedly slapped the wounded Patterson, who is black, and used ethnic slurs against her while she was in an ambulance on her way to the hospital. Patterson was left strapped to a gurney for seven hours and wasn’t allowed proper follow-up medical care for the deep gash on her arm after she was booked into Bernalillo County Detention Center. LeHocky and Bart had recently been recognized with an "Officer of the Month" award. This case was settled for $210,000.00
4/15/01: CRYSTAL HOUSTON HOMICIDE (Socorro PD): Crystal was found dead in her home, severely beaten with blunt force injuries to her legs, arms, neck and head, just 14 months after the death of her sister, Stephanie (see “Stephanie Houston Case.”) Crystal’s blouse was pulled up over her head, her bra had been torn off and her pants were pulled down around her ankles. The OMI listed the cause of death as undetermined because Crystal also had some drugs and alcohol in her system. A prison escapee, who had been in Crystal's home on the night of her death, was found in another city with Crystal's car after trying to cash Crystal's checks, but police said that without a definitive cause of death they could not arrest him. It took until June 2003 and extensive pressure from the media for the state lab to ship DNA evidence that had been submitted to the state crime lab at the time of her death to a lab in California to be processed. Final DNA results are still pending, though preliminary tests match the prison escapee. A special prosecutor has finally been appointed after the Socorro District Attorney refused to prosecute.
4/17/01: Deputy Chief Ray Schultz announced that eight to ten APD officers faced punishment for a 1999 plot to illegally steal premium satellite television service by downloading computer software that allowed them to reprogram subscription cards. Schultz stated that none of the officers would be dismissed, but would be “reminded that they shouldn’t do things like that.”
6/6/01: Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy Tom Lujan and other unnamed deputies, seized and arrested Michael Bradford, 16, as he and his sister Robin, 15, waited for their mother to pick them up after a concert. There had been fights at the concert, but the Bradford children were not involved. Deputies arrested and handcuffed Michael, threw him onto the hood of a squad car, kneed him in the groin, knocked him to the ground and kicked and beat him until he lost consciousness. They grabbed Robin, tore her shirt off, and called her a “whore.” A civil rights suit contended the assault occurred "because Michael was a young black man close enough for officers to grab." The charges against Michael were later dropped. The Bradfords’ civil suits claiming excessive use of force, false arrest, malicious prosecution and negligence were settled out for $45,000.
8/15/01: Albuquerque Journal: Former APD Officer Matt Griffin, serving a life sentence in NM State Prison, attacked a guard with a home-made knife. Griffin had at least two dozen other serious misconduct reports involving property damage and attacks on inmates and officers. "He's a repetitive security challenge for this facility," said prison spokesperson, Gerges Scott.
8/29/01: APD Sgt. Mike Garcia, supervisor of officers assigned to public schools, was indicted on sex charges involving a 12-yr-old girl who was staying the night with one of Garcia’s daughters. (When he was tried in 2004, the jury was deadlocked, and the prosecutors did seek a retrial.)
8/31/01: APD Officer Cliff Saylor loosed his Belgian Malinois attack dog, Buddy, on Billy Booker and Pauline Extrada, a homeless couple who were sleeping on the porch of a downtown building. The City tried to settle the case with the victims at 4 a.m., three hours after the attack, while the two were at a hospital on pain medication, thus violating a state law that prohibits immediate settlements while a person is hospitalized. Booker couldn’t even read the paperwork he was asked to sign because he is illiterate.
10/31/01: Off-duty Albuquerque police officer, Tom Sholtis, encountered Deena Tanberg, (the wife of an Albuquerque FBI agent), chatting with a woman friend in a public park after hours. Sholtis ordered the two women to come toward him, and when they didn’t instantly comply, Sholtis “violently slammed Deena Tanberg to the ground, fracturing her arm and causing her ligament damage.” The audiotape from Officer Sholtis’s belt-mounted recorder reflects that he grabbed Deena and broke her arm within 20 seconds of first encountering her, before she had even determined that Sholtis was, indeed, a law enforcement officer.
11/01: Three police officers from the Rio Rancho Department of Public Safety were investigated for Cable theft after a citywide sting. All three investigations were dropped. One officer, Scott Kellogg, was promoted to lieutenant.
11/9/01: Albuquerque Journal: Department of Justice auditors are questioning how the Albuquerque Police Department spent up to $1.5 million in grant money that was supposed to be used to hire officers.
11/10/01: Albuquerque Journal: The Police Oversight Commission announced that the Albuquerque Police Department has installed an "early warning system" that will identify officers whose behavior or performance may be slipping. The first report indicated that 10 officers and two sergeants should be evaluated. The combined records for the dozen officers identified included 62 uses of force, four lawsuits filed, and nine internal investigations.
11/10/01: Albuquerque Journal: APD MISTREATED MENTALLY DISABLED MAN - The sister of Fred Hildebrandt, a mentally retarded man, is suing Albuquerque police for leaving her brother shackled for almost five hours at his home. The Albuquerque Police Department said they hasn't reviewed the July 16 shackling incident so could not comment.
12/01: Albuquerque Journal: The Albuquerque Police Department admitted to the incoming mayor, Martin Chavez, that they may have gone nearly $6 million over budget this year.
2/7/02: Albuquerque Journal: The budget shortfall that forced city officials to consider layoffs and spending cuts grew by another $1 million as the Albuquerque Police Department found yet another $1 million in over-spending.
2/14/02: Albuquerque Tribune: Two APD officers shot Leon Casey Arthur to death outside a motel when he allegedly make a “threatening approach,” brandishing what officers say they thought was a weapon. The item in Arthur’s hand was a hairbrush.
2/02: Officer Aaron Julian, Rio Rancho Dept. of Public Safety, was indicted for five felony counts of child abuse. The DA failed to send a Grand Jury Target letter so all charges were dropped. Aaron Julian's wife was then arrested and charged with the five felony counts.
4/7/02: APD Officer Craig O'Neil, a seven-year veteran who worked as a field investigator, was booked into the Bernalillo Detention Center on charges of aggravated assault with a firearm and false imprisonment.
4/22/02: Albuquerque Journal: Within minutes of initiating a chase of a man suspected of criminal trespass, an unidentified APD officer had the suspect face down and limp, kicking him so many times that a bystander stepped in to stop him. When the officer dragged the suspect backward by the handcuffs, the bystander intervened again, trying to help the man get up and walk. The bystander, who didn't know the suspect, repeatedly asked for the officer's badge number. But the officer wouldn't respond. This same officer was the recipient of three other complaints in two years — improperly macing and punching a suspect; swerving in and out of traffic; and improperly shooting a Rottweiler. He wasn't found to be at fault in any of the cases.
5/26/02, Albuquerque Journal: APD DOG BITES COST CITY MORE THAN $940,000: The city of Albuquerque, over the past decade, has paid more than $725,000 to settle APD dog-bite claims. Meanwhile, private lawyers defending K-9 officers in ongoing lawsuits have billed the city another $217,000 in fees and costs over the past two years. Police dogs have bitten dozens of citizens who were neither armed nor violent. In some cases, police gave no verbal warning a dog would be unleashed. Officers in several cases allowed their dogs to continue biting suspects after the initial apprehension. In one case, an unarmed suspect was ordered to walk toward a police officer with the police dog still clenching her buttock.
6/8/02, Albuquerque Journal: The city-county jail paid former inmate, Vincent Cordova, a $25,000 settlement for injuries sustained in fights between inmates, orchestrated by corrections officers, who arranged the fights and cheered and made bets on the results.
6/11/02: TROY PINO SUSPICIOUS DEATH (Santa Rosa PD): Troy died four days after a brutal assault by his girlfriend’s ex-husband, Edward Lucero. Witnesses reported that the 260-pound Lucero knocked Troy to the floor, beat him with his fists and kicked him repeatedly with steel-tipped shoes. The first officer at the scene was Lucero’s nephew, Officer Justin Anaya. The second to arrive was Officer Anthony Ortega. Neither officer was certified. Although Troy was calling out for help, the officers made no attempt to stop the assault. Instead, Officer Anaya, sprayed him in the face with mace. The supervising officer, Officer Joe E. Martinez, who arrived slightly after that, was Lucero’s best friend. He terminated the assault by physically restraining Lucero. No arrests were made and no charges filed. No medical attention was sought for Troy. Although there were seven other witnesses, police made no mention of Lucero’s assault in their reports. The following day, Officer Martinez forced Troy out of his girlfriend's car as they prepared to drive to Las Vegas, New Mexico. Martinez followed Troy for several hours. Troy went to a friend's house where he fell ill from the beating and was transported to the hospital in Santa Rosa. He was airlifted to UNMH where he died.
7/02. Rio Rancho Observer: Sandoval County Sheriff Deputy Pete Montoya was indicted on 18 counts of criminal sexual contact with a 5-yr-old child. (Montoya was the lead detective in the John Sherman case, 12/27/98.)
1/28/03: RUSSELL CAGE SUSPICIOUS DEATH (Bloomfield PD and Farmington PD): Russell died of a gunshot wound to the head outside the trailer home of his girlfriend, Sylvia Anaya. Police closed the case as a suicide with no investigation and without even seeing the autopsy report. The gun, which was not Russell’s, was not identified or processed for prints. The sizes of the head wounds indicate that the entry wound was most likely on the left side of Russell’s head. Russell was right handed. According to police, the bullet passed through Russell’s head, made an 86-degree turn, and continued on through the wall of the trailer, striking the headboard of Sylvia’s bed and dropping to the carpet. Russell stood 5’10” and the bullet hole in the trailer is less that 4’ from the ground. Sylvia’s brother, Isaac Anaya, is linked to the Eastside Brown Pride Gang. Russell had been telling people that members of that gang were involved in the beating and shooting death of a man named Dominic Martinez. Russell even claimed that the weapons had been hidden in Sylvia’s trailer home. Three weeks prior to Russell’s death, Russell was in a fight with a member of the Brown Pride Gang who threatened to kill him. One gang member reportedly has brothers on both the Bloomfield Police Force and the San Juan Sheriff’s Dept.
5/3/03: Karen Yontz was chased down in her car and shot to death by two Albuquerque Police Officers who suspected her of robbing a bank. Yontz was a longtime criminal investigator with both the Attorney General's Office and the District Attorney's Office in Santa Fe and a former Bernalillo County sheriff's deputy. At the time of her death, Yontz was building a case against Municipal Judge Charles Maestas, who was facing 28 criminal charges of trading judicial favors for sex with women who appeared before his court. She was also investigating the Russell Cage case (see above).
5/15/03: APD Officer Bryan Killinger was fined $15,000 for unlawful detention and excessive force against a bicyclist, Jackie Shane. Killinger did a U-turn in front of Shane, almost causing an accident. When she called out to him to use a turn signal, he grabbed her by the head and pulled her off her bike, throwing it to the ground and stomping on the rear wheel. He, then, hit her, handcuffed her, and threatened to file false charges against her.
6/20/03: Albq. Journal: APD Officer Duane Currell was indicted on charges he coerced a woman into exposing herself and then grabbed her during a traffic stop.
6/22/03: Bernalillo County deputies were called to the home of police-watchdog activist Gilbert Elizondo and his wife after the death of his wife’s mother, who died of natural causes. Sgt. Natalie Jasler tried to prevent Mrs. Elizondo from viewing her mother's body, and when Elizondo stepped in to block a blow by Jasler to his wife, Jazler slapped and kicked the couple. Elizondo was then arrested on a charge of aggravated assault on a peace officer. Jasler kneed Elizondo in the groin several times while he was handcuffed and other deputies held him. Jasler’s charges against Elizondo were later dropped
6/27/03: Albq. Journal: APD Officer Christopher Chase was indicted on 32 counts of using his official vehicle to stop motorists for sex. Charges include felony counts of kidnapping, tampering with evidence, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, criminal sexual penetration of alleged victims of both sexes including minors and eight petty misdemeanor counts of battery. The indictment suggests Chase took care to avoid apprehension, in one instance forcing the victim to wash her hands of evidence with a sanitizer.
7/11/03: Albq. Journal: The Police Oversight Commission discovers that APD Chief Gil Gallegos overstepped his authority by arbitrarily reversing the commission’s findings in two police-shooting cases, exonerating the officers and classifying the shootings as justified. Gallegos said in commission documents that the case files were his and he could change the findings at any time.
8/03: APD has agreed to investigate its evidence unit in regard to the auctioning off of evidence and money missing from the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department. An informant has made claims that evidence has been destroyed and that "APD management has helped to cover up the crimes."
10/30/03, Albq. Journal: Albuquerque police and Bernalillo County Sheriff's deputies chased Toni Osborn, a 5-foot tall, 50-year-old activist, who had been circulating a petition seeking the removal of the mayor. They pinned her vehicle against an embankment, sprayed her with Mace, and sicced a police dog on her. The dog pulled Osborn half out of her vehicle and, once she was on the ground, remained locked on her arm while she was handcuffed before being taken to the hospital. "They (the police and dog) practically took her left arm off. They beat her. Her face is swollen to twice its size," said her husband, Loyd Osborn.” Police explained they’d been told that Osborn was “armed and dangerous.” Osborn, who was not armed, underwent two surgeries to save her arm.
10/31/03, Albq. Journal: NM State Police Officer Tomas Maes, shot a neighbor child’s Golden Retriever puppy in the face with a 45-caliber handgun, because it wandered into his yard after the neighbor, Vanessa Salizar, 12, accidentally left a gate open. Officer Maes explained he was concerned about the safety of his son who was playing next door at his parents' home. The State Police exonerated Maes of any wrongdoing. The dog survived the shooting but a few days later was poisoned.
10/1/03: HARRIET MOLDOV-TAYLOR RAPE AND HOMICIDE: Harriet, a disabled woman who lived alone, was found unconscious, in a diabetic coma, and bleeding from her mouth and rectum in her apartment. She died three days later. The OMI report described deep vaginal tears and ruled the cause of death strokes and blood loss caused by a violent sexual attack. APD refused to accept the possibility that anyone would enjoy raping a woman who was disabled and overweight and insisted Harriet’s injuries had to be self-inflicted. They have threatened to file a complaint against the first doctor who examined Harriet and are trying to convince the Medical Examiner to change her report to mesh with their own speculations.
12/8/03: Former NM Sheriff’s deputy James Trujillo was accused of robbing a woman at gunpoint in front of a Los Lunas bank and taking $20,000.
12/31/03, Albq. Journal: Money, jewelry, gold coins, guns, and other items of value are alleged to be missing from the APD Evidence Unit. Chief Gallegos states this could be “anything from theft to poor record keeping.” The issue is classified as “an internal personnel matter.” No employees in the evidence unit had been disciplined or fired.
4/03: Defense attorney Ray Twohig sends a letter to the Attorney General’s Office requesting they investigate $7,000 in gold coins missing from the APD evidence room. He receives no response.
6/5/03: The Holguin family was terrorized by APD officers who stormed the house, guns blazing; blasted the door off its hinges; pelted the home with flash-gun grenades, and handcuffed all five family members. The officers, led by Capt. Robbin Burge, knocked the 80-yr-old grandmother, Carmen Holguin, to the floor and injured her so severely she had to be rushed to the hospital. They, then, swigged drinks from the refrigerator, threw the search warrant on the floor, and left. The Holguins had no criminal history and were never charged with anything. Police had stormed the wrong house. In 2002, Capt. Burge was named APD’s Plain Clothes Officer of the Year.
8/03: Defense attorney Ray Twohig again sends a letter to the Attorney General’s Office requesting they investigate $7,000 in gold coins missing from the evidence room. He again receives no response.
A routine inspection of the evidence unit flags concerns over evidence that was mishandled at a police auction. APD Chief Gallegos orders an internal audit to investigate possible problems.
12/31/03: Nick Bakas, Albq.'s chief public safety officer, tells the press he has no knowledge of any internal audit of the APD evidence unit. However, APD Chief Gallegos confirms that there is such an audit. "We're looking at potential Standard Operating Procedure violations," he tells the media. That could mean anything from theft to poor record-keeping.
1/04: APD removes two employees from the evidence unit, after money is found missing. They are reassigned to a different division of APD.
1/9/04: Albq. Journal--The Police Oversight Commission found APD Officer Jay Rowland guilty of using unreasonable force during an unwarranted attack on Lane Leckman during an anti-war demonstration on March 20, 2003.
2/04, Albq. Journal: Chris Jones sues APD to get back $10,000 cops seized from him in 2001 in a criminal case he was never charged in. The money, which was in a locked safe in his home, and was from a settlement Jones received from an automobile accident. The lawsuit is asking a federal judge to stop APD and the city from indefinitely holding seized property without following state forfeiture procedures.
2/28/04, Albq. Journal: A surveillance video show nine guards at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Bernalillo county beating three shackled inmates as they are being checked into the facility. The inmates were forced into a wall face first, struck in the face with a fist, and viciously beaten for 17 minutes.
3/4/04, KRQE TV Evening News: Total of thefts from APD Evidence Room could equal hundreds of thousands of dollars. “One difficulty in uncovering this story has been the widespread reluctance of rank and file officers to talk about the problem. Again and again officers told KRQE News 13 that they've been warned their jobs are at stake if they talk.”
3/5/04, KRQE TV Evening News: At least a dozen corrections officers are suspected in the repeated and premeditated assault of three inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center. The Bernalillo County Sheriff's office is investigating the incident at MDC, and Sheriff Darren White says he expects criminal charges to be filed.
3/5/04: City Independent Review Officer Jay Rowland paid a surprise visit to APD’s transfer station to the Metropolitan Detention Center in response to complaints from concerned citizens alleging prisoners were being beaten up by officers. At 11 p.m., Rowland discovered numerous atrocities, including 27 prisoners crammed into a 12x15’ holding room; two prisoners handcuffed outside the facility in the cold, one with his pants down and shoes off for two hours, the other with no coat and no shoes.
3/11/04: The APD transfer center was shut down due to Rowland’s report. Police officers will now have to personally transport prisoners to the Metropolitan Detention Center almost 20 miles west of town.
3/12/04, KRQE TV: Suspended prison guard, Ted Arana, who is under investigation for his role in the brutal beating of inmates, gives a motivational speech to hundreds of students at West Mesa High School, describing how he assaulted inmates regularly. The school district says the Corrections Dept. was responsible for selecting Arana to send to the school.
3/18/04, Albq. Journal: It has now been determined that 12 to 20 jail guards or staff, including supervisors, were involved in the Feb. 24 beating of three shackled inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center. Mayor Martin Chavez said there is a culture at the jail that allows the mistreatment of prisoners. “These idiots have cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars" (in civil suits, etc.)
3/18/04, Albq. Journal: Valencia County sheriff's deputy Michael Gabaldon is indicted on four counts of fourth-degree-felony perjury charges for lying under oath about the results of a breath alcohol test he administered.
4/17/04, KRQE News: Inmate James Barber was hospitalized after Cibola County Center Director John Gould shot him with almost a dozen rounds of from a powerful rubber bullet gun. Barber was naked in his cell when the assault occurred. The company that manufacturers the rubber bullet gun says the weapon is very powerful and used in prison riots and crowd control situations. The F.B.I. says a grand jury indicted Gould on similar charges when he was employed at the Dona Ana County Detention Center in Las Cruces.
4/30/04: Chief Judge John Brennan of Albuquerque was arrested at a DWI checkpoint and charged with drug possession and tampering with evidence.
7/8/04: The arrest of Judge Brennan for drug possession spurred the disclosure of a confidential narcotics report alleging that Brennan’s cocaine use was known by law enforcement officers for years. The report also includes information about drug activities involving numerous other prominent New Mexicans. “It draws on a variety of sources and reads like a Who’s Who of New Mexico drug underworld,” said KRQE TV reporter Larry Barker. “Judges, lawyers, politicians, sports celebrities and prominent businessmen appear in the report right along side the State’s narcotics kingpins.” David Iglesias, US Attorney for New Mexico, called the detailed document about drug smuggling and money laundering in New Mexico “a page-turner I couldn’t put down.”
7/19/04: The trial of APD Sgt. Mike Garcia, indicted for sex charges involving a 12-yr-old girl (see 8/29.01) ended in a locked jury. The prosecutor has dropped charges because the girl does not want to go through a retrial.
8/03/04, KRQE News: NM State police officer accused of sexually assaulting a female domestic violence victim in the pack of his patrol car has resigned after a multi-agency investigation into the allegations. His name will not be released.
12/16/04, Albq. Journal: An APD officer stole $700 from a man he arrested for drunken driving, according to an investigation conducted by the city's Independent Review Office. On the day he was to take a polygraph, the officer resigned. APD will not release the officer’s name.
12/21/04, Albq. Journal -- APD officials say they still don't know if guns, weapons, drugs, jewelry and money are missing from their evidence room, despite a nine-month criminal investigation. A review conducted by a private company reports that "no one (in the evidence room) can say that there is not evidence missing at this time." Police officials said it was up to the Attorney General's Office— not them— to figure out what if anything is missing.
12/29/04, Albq. Journal: Lack of action by APD leadership may have allowed employees of APD's Evidence Unit to destroy traces of wrongdoing in order to avoid criminal prosecution, according to Larry Sonntag, commander of APD's Inspections and Accreditation Unit. After problems with the evidence unit came to light, preventive action was not taken to restrict the destruction of evidence for a full year. "During that time period, numerous computer and paper records were lost, altered or destroyed to the extent that limited if any criminal prosecution is possible now," Sonntag stated.
12/2004: Dec. 2004: A teenage male was awarded $17,000 for his claim that APD Officer Christopher Chase beat him with a flashlight in September 2002.
1/20/05, Albq. Journal: A State Police narcotics agent has resigned amid an FBI investigation stemming from allegations he was dealing drugs.
2/05: A brownish liquid is allegedly spotted near a plastic tub used to store evidence from methamphetamine cases. APD hires a hazardous removal company to dispose of contaminated evidence. The chemical damage and cleanup destroy evidence from hundreds of cases.
2/12/05, Albq. Trib.: APD Officer Christopher Chase was found guilty of assault, battery, false imprisonment and loss of due process for raping a woman in the back seat of his squad car. The victim was awarded $ 943,380. "Frankly, I think you can sleep very well with that verdict," Senior U.S. District Judge John Conway told the jurors.
3/9/05: APD officers discover untagged drugs, guns, and money lying around the evidence room with no record of where they came from.
3/05: Capt. Marie Miranda, overseer of the APD evidence unit, writes Chief Gallegos a letter informing him that in Feb., 2005, the cleanup of a hazardous chemical destroyed evidence from hundreds of drug cases. Evidence from homicide and sexual assault cases were also "compromised." At least 20% of those cases are still pending. Miranda insists that the department had an ethical obligation to notify the District Attorney's Office, which it didn’t do.
3/05: Chris Jones files a suit against APD and the city asserting that, when her boyfriend was arrested by police in a domestic violence case, police searched their apartment, broke open a safe and took $10,000 in cash. Jones says she has tried to get the money back, but the police refuse to turn it over.
3/05: Three federal lawsuits are filed by attorneys who claim APD lost property belonging to their clients. In all three cases, the attorneys are representing people who were never prosecuted.
3/11/05: A majority of Albuquerque's city councilors say it’s time they stepped in and examine the problems at APD. Council member Eric Griego calls for a city council hearing on the evidence-room problems.
3/11/05: APD Officers Union votes "no confidence" in Deputy Chief Ed Sauer’s leadership because of problems in the APD evidence room.
3/15/05: Police disclose that the chemical leak in the APD evidence unit destroyed evidence in 235 cases, at least 20% of which are still pending.
3/17/05: Whistle-blower, APD Capt. Miranda, who reported the chemical leak, is placed on administrative leave and asked to turn in her badge, gun and squad car.
3/18/05: A gun from a murder case that is supposed to go to trial is missing from the APD evidence room. APD did not inform the prosecutors.
3/19/05: APD Sgt. Cynthia Orr gave a media interview, starting out, “This is probably going to end my career.” Orr said Chief Gilbert Gallegos failed to act despite repeated warnings of evidence theft. Orr said that, in Aug. 2003, she identified two people who were stealing in the evidence room, but Gallegos allowed them to continue to work there, which enabled them to destroy evidence that would have proven their guilt. She said she discovered thefts when property went to auction and the list of property taken out of the evidence room was longer than the list of property the auctioneer received. "Am I implicating the chief is assisting to do this cover-up? Absolutely. Do I know this is a dangerous accusation to make? Absolutely. But I know this is something that needs to be done." Orr said a deputy chief forbade her to send reports of missing evidence to the records department, because they didn’t want it to become public record that things were missing. She said officers under criminal investigations for such things as DUI or domestic violence were allowed to work in the evidence room where they could oversee the evidence in their own criminal cases.
3/22/05: While pounding on a lectern, Police Chief Gilbert Gallegos told city councilors he has been personally attacked over evidence room problems. Cuncilor, Eric Griego, brought to the meeting 15 e-mails from officers who feared speaking out because of possible retaliation.
3/22/05: Charlene Perez filed a suit claiming the APD evidence room “lost” $100,000 worth of her family jewelry wouldn’t return it despite a court order.
3/23/05: Sgt. Orr says deputy chiefs encouraged other officers to retaliate because she spoke out. This occurred at two citywide meetings attended by hundreds of officers who were ordered to be there.
3/25/05: Four Albuquerque police employees— including two officers— are implicated in the disappearance of $75,000-$200,000 in money from the evidence room. Investigators from the state AG Office say drugs may also have been removed because "we have discovered a way that this could have occurred without anyone detecting." Police employees were able to move evidence out of inventory by falsifying auction documents, manipulating APD’s evidence tracking system and using computer access codes of other employees.
3/30/05: The list of valuable property from evidence room that has been sold at auction or “taken to the dump” continues to grow. An example of such items is a $15,000 plasma TV set, evidence in a white-collar crime investigation, which was supposed to be returned to the owner after the trial. Evidence room personnel state they took the TV to the dump because it had a crack in it.
3/3/05: Mayor Martin Chavez tell the media, “"When you have a department where there are accusations, counter-accusations, lieutenants accusing captains, captains accusing deputy chiefs, deputy chiefs accusing captains, that is a department in disarray." Whereupon Police Chief Gilbert Gallegos resigns.
3/31/05: In a furious tirade, laced with profanity, APD Deputy Chief Paul Chavez warned his lieutenants that if they ever openly criticized the administration he would yank them from their command. Lt. Joseph Byers taped the diatribe and filed a complaint with athe city’s Labor Management Board. "He was trying to intimidate us,” Byers said. “Others will not come forward because they are scared."
4/7/03: It’s disclosed that In Feb. 03, an APD freezer containing more than 1,600 samples of blood, urine, saliva and other evidence from rapes and homicides was shut down because of a freon leak, causing some materials to thaw. 40 criminal cases may be affected, at least 15 homicides and 10 rapes. The police and the DA’s office withheld that information from defense attorneys, who continued to construct their cases on contaminated evidence.
4/24/05: Three federal lawsuits have been filed against APD alleging the department lost or failed to return more than $16,000 that was seized from people who were never charged with a crime.
5/21/05, Albq. Journal: The Department of Public Safety paid $300,000 to settle a tort claim by black former State Police officer Dexter Brock. On May 22, 2000, UMSP officers forced Brock out of his squad car with mace, dragged him across a parking lot, handcuffed him to a telephone pole in the dark, and photographed his humiliation, while calling him “nigger” and other racial slurs. Police say the officers were disciplined, but won't say who they were or what the punishment was.
5/22/05. Albq. Journal: APD is the subject of five personal injury lawsuits in which victims were injured or killed in Officer-Involved car crashes and APD lost witness statements, didn't interview people who saw the crashes, or refused to turn over evidence to the plaintiffs.
Among those cases: Christine Roessner was the passenger on a motorcycle on Oct. 18, 2003, when a police officer cut them off, stopped suddenly and caused the motorcycle to crash. Roessner was left paralyzed and with permanent brain damage
The APD report did not mention the car was a police car and stated only that motorcycle failed to slow down for traffic. The report said there were no witness statements because people who saw the crash would not cooperate with officers. However, Roessner's attorney found two witnesses who said they gave statements to police. APD attorneys then acknowledged that there were witness statements but they were accidentally lost.
Abel Trujillo was killed on 4/2/04 when a police car ran a stop sign and struck his car. APD said they could find no witnesses, but insist the officer had his lights and sirens on. However a PI found several witnesses who saw the crash and claim the lights and sirens were not on. The city will settle out of court.
Patrick Moser and Marcy Mease sued the city in 2003, claiming an APD officer was negligent when he ran a red light and slammed into a van they were in. Their attorneys sought sanctions after they tried for seven months to get copies of radio transmissions, accident measurements and copies of recordings from officers' belt recorders. The city eventually settled for $125,000.
5-25-05, Albq. Tribune: APD vice unit detective Timothy Chavez, a 13 yr. Veteran of APD, recipient of the 1998 Law Enforcement Officer/Hero of the Year Award, is charged with the kidnap and rape of a 14-yr-old girl he “met” on a dating phone line.
5-25-05 -- NMSP Officers Thomas Morrissey and Saul Canialis got drunk and cussed out two APD officers, insisting they were superior because they were state police and APD was just city. Things escalated until nine APD officers subdued and arrested their State Police counterparts.