DA Clears ABQ Officer In Shooting, GOP House Speaker To Leave Legislature

Dec 29, 2016

District Attorney Clears Albuquerque Officer In Shooting – The Associated Press 

Prosecutors have cleared an Albuquerque police officer in the 2014 shooting death of an Air Force veteran during a standoff at the man's home.

District Attorney Kari Brandenburg announced this week that her office will not bring charges against Officer Daniel Hughes, who fired the fatal shot.

The shooting ended a five-hour standoff with 50-year-old Armand Martin. After police shot flash bangs and tear gas into his home, Martin walked out and fired from two pistols. He was immediately shot in the chest.

The review found that Hughes felt he had no choice but to use deadly force to stop Martin's actions and protect fellow officers.

The shooting came just weeks after the U.S. Justice Department issued a scathing report highlighting a culture of aggression within the police force.

New Mexico Republican House Speaker Will Leave LegislatureAssociated Press

Republican House speaker Don Tripp says he will leave the Legislature in January as he passes his leadership post to a Democrat.

Tripp said Wednesday from his jewelry store in Socorro that he will hand over the ceremonial gavel to the next House speaker on the first day of the legislative session in January and retire from his seat at the same time.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and local county commissioners are responsible for choosing a successor until the next election.

The 70-year-old lawmaker has served in the Legislature since 1999. Tripp stepped into the top House leadership slot in 2015 after Republicans won control of the chamber for the first time in 60 years.

In November, Democrats reclaimed control of the House and extended their majority in the Senate.

New Mexico Highlights Progress On Overdose DeathsThe Associated Press

New Mexico officials are highlighting the state's progress in reducing drug overdose deaths as a new law goes into effect to increase monitoring of prescriptions for opioid pain medication.

The state Department of Health announced Thursday that New Mexico no longer ranks among the very worst states when it comes to drug overdose deaths.

Statistics compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show New Mexico moved up from 49th place in the rate of overdose deaths per capita in 2014 to 42nd place in 2015.

A New Mexico state law taking effect Jan. 1 requires physicians and medical practitioners to check with the state's prescription drug monitoring program before treating patients with opioids and again every three months to avoid the danger of overlapping prescriptions.

Dona Ana County Treasurer Appeals Corruption Conviction – The Associated Press & The Las Cruces Sun-News

The former Dona Ana County treasurer who was removed from office after being convicted of public corruption and gross immorality is appealing.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that an attorney for David Gutierrez last week filed a notice in state District Court to appeal the judgment that led to Gutierrez's firing.

Gutierrez was removed from office on Nov. 31 after a Dona Ana County jury found him guilty for allegedly offering $2,000 to a female office employee to have sex with him. At trial, Gutierrez testified that he said that other people would pay to have sex with the employee, not that he was propositioning her.

Gutierrez's attorney, Jose Coronado of Las Cruces, did not return requests for comment.

Planning Could Lead To New International Rail Crossing Las Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

A large-scale study in the works could lead to the eventual relocation of railroad tracks in southern Dona Aña County and the establishment of a new international rail crossing west of the Santa Teresa Port of Entry.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports options are being considered in conjunction with a bigger-picture proposal to relocate rail shipping yards of major railways from downtown El Paso, Texas, to Santa Teresa.

BNSF Railway spokesman Joe Sloan says the company is in talks with New Mexico officials about improving rail crossings and possibly re-routing tracks.

Documents show at least three routes have been proposed, but no decisions have been made.

Border economic development officials say a feasibility study also is being done by the Mexican state of Chihuahua since coordination would be needed on both sides of the border.

Jerry Pacheco, president and CEO of The Border Industrial Association, said more freight and commercial traffic would bring more manufacturing and trade.

New Mexico To Go After Drunken Drivers Who Skip Court Associated Press

New Mexico State Police will be going after suspected drunken drivers who fail to show up for court as part of a special operation that will be conducted every three months in 2017.

Gov. Susana Martinez announced the initiative Wednesday, saying the operation is meant to send the message that people can't avoid justice.

Many of those that will be targeted include repeat offenders.

The roundups will be a coordinated effort between law enforcement and courts across the state that identify DWI offenders who have an outstanding bench warrant.

A similar three-day operation earlier this year netted 33 arrests.

Navajo Nation Seeks Director For Veterans Administration Associated Press

The Navajo Nation is seeking someone to lead the tribe's office of veterans’ affairs.

Navajo officials announced this week that a request for proposals has been issued for qualified people who could serve as the executive director of the Navajo Nation Veterans Administration. The contract would be for six years.

Applicants will be vetted by the tribe's 10-member veterans advisory council.

The veterans’ agency falls under the oversight of the tribal president and vice president. It's charged with addressing the shortage of services and programs for veterans living across the reservation, which spans parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

Police Need Help Identifying Man Found Dead On RoadAssociated Press

A driver in Albuquerque early Wednesday morning spotted a man lying on the street.

Now police are looking for help identifying the man and figuring out how he died.

Albuquerque police say detectives saw signs of injury on the man but that an autopsy would reveal the cause of death.

The man was found on Edith Boulevard NE south of Lomas Boulevard NE.

Anyone with information is asked to call police.

Sandoval County Authorities Nab 2 In Mailbox Theft CaseAssociated Press

Authorities have arrested two suspected mail thieves after one of them nearly ran over a Sandoval County sheriff's deputy.

Sheriff's spokesman Lt. Keith Elder says the incident started early Tuesday when the deputy spotted a vehicle with out-of-state plates near a cluster of mailboxes in Placitas.

A woman was sitting in the car, and a man was trying to open the boxes with a screwdriver and wrench.

Authorities say the woman started the car and sped off, forcing the deputy to jump out of the way and pull the other suspect with him.

Bernalillo police took the woman into custody after she crashed several miles down the road. She was identified as 21-year-old Elexus Groves.

Elder says charges are pending against Groves and 24-year-old Paul Garcia, who also had a misdemeanor warrant out for his arrest.

Northern New Mexico Village Battles More Water Problems KOB-TV, Associated Press

Some residents in a northern New Mexico community are still without running water.

Questa village officials tell Albuquerque television station KOB-TV that after three weeks, they aren't able to provide enough water and that there may be a leak.

A second well was recently installed, but water pressure isn't keeping up with demand.

Those residents who have water are under a boil advisory, while others have had to rely on bottled water and water trucks.

Mayor Mark Gallegos said he's trying to find the source of the leak but acknowledged that the village's system is archaic.

The state Department of Emergency Management said capital improvement funds need to be invested in the system, but how soon the leak will be fixed and who will fix it isn't clear.

District Attorney Clears Officers Of Wrongdoing In Shooting Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The Santa Fe District Attorney's Office has cleared four officers of wrongdoing in connection to the fatal shooting of a 30-year-old suspect.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that District Attorney Jennifer Padgett on Tuesday sent a letter to State Police Chief Pete Kassetas stating that the four officers will not face charges for the August 2015 death of Marvin Maestas.

Maestas, who was wanted in connection to a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, led officers on a chase on Interstate 25 and fired a shotgun at officers before he was shot four times in the back by police.

Padgett wrote in the letter that the four officers were forced to make a "split-second decision" to protect their lives and the lives of fellow officers.

5-Year-Old Koala Dies At Albuquerque Zoo Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The Albuquerque zoo's only koala has died of cancer.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Luke, a 5-year-old Queensland koala, died last week at ABQ BioPark.

Zoo officials say Luke was diagnosed with cancer about a month ago and was initially treated with chemotherapy. The treatment was discontinued in mid-December after it did not lead to any improvements in Luke's condition. The koala was euthanized last week after his condition deteriorated.

Luke was born at the Los Angeles Zoo in 2011 and came to the ABQ BioPark Zoo in December 2012.

Zoo officials say they will consider how to represent Australia's species and diversity in future exhibits.

Udall And Heinrich Praise Bears Ears National Monument DesignationAssociated Press, KUNM

New Mexico’s two Democratic senators are praising President Barack Obama’s designation of a new national monument in the Four Corners area.

Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich released statements extolling the area’s beauty and cultural importance. A coalition of tribes pushed to ensure protections for Bears Ears in Utah. The lands are home to an estimated 100,000 archaeological sites, including ancient cliff dwellings.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye called it an exciting day for his tribe and people of all cultures.

The announcement Wednesday marks the administration's latest move to protect environmentally sensitive areas in its final days.

Critics called it another layer of unnecessary federal control that would close the area to development and recreation.

The 300,000-acre Gold Butte National Monument outside Las Vegas also was named. It's an ecologically fragile area near where Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy led an armed standoff with government agents in 2014.

Tanker Crash Leads To Diesel Spill In Cimarron River Associated Press

New Mexico's Environmental Department is assessing the impact of a fuel spill into the Cimarron River outside the community of Eagle Nest.

State police say the driver of a tanker truck carrying diesel fuel and gasoline allowed the truck to slide off the north side of U.S. 64 and it plunged into the river. The crash happened Tuesday about five miles west of the community in northeastern New Mexico's Colfax County.

State police reported no injuries to the driver.

An estimated 500 to 1,100 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into the river. The big-rig was hauled from the river and the driver cited for careless driving.

State police say a hazmat team worked on the cleanup and state and local officials notified people in the area affected by the spill.