Friday News Roundup: AP Files Open Records Lawsuits Against NM Governor

Dec 6, 2013

NM Officer In Van Shooting Is FiredAssociated Press

The New Mexico State Police officer who fired shots at a minivan full of children during a chaotic October traffic stop has been fired.

New Mexico State Police spokesman Lt. Emmanuel Gutierrez says he confirmed with State Police Chief Pete Kassetas that Officer Elias Montoya is no longer employed by the department. His termination was effective at 5 p.m. Friday.

Montoya has 30 days to appeal his firing to a public safety advisory council.

The officer was placed on administrative leave earlier this week following an investigation into the shooting outside the northern New Mexico tourist town of Taos.

Video from a police cruiser's dashboard camera taken Oct. 28 showed Montoya shooting at the minivan as a Memphis, Tenn., woman drove away. The motorist, 39-year-old Oriana Farrell, had been stopped for speeding and fled twice after arguing with an officer.  

NM Delegation Push To Expand WIPP- Carlsbad Current-Argus and The Associated Press

A delegation of Eddy County government officials is headed to Washington, D.C., to build support for a proposal that would expand the mission of the federal government's nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico.

Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway, Eddy County Commission Chairman Jack Volpato and Eddy-Lea Alliance Vice Chairman John Heaton will leave for Washington on Sunday.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports the delegation plans to meet with lawmakers and representatives with the U.S. Department of Energy to discuss the proposal.

Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce introduced an amendment that would allow for non-defense-related materials to be buried at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.

The county officials say the amendment proposed by Pearce, a New Mexico Republican, would help ensure a useful future for WIPP.


AP Files Open Records Lawsuits Against NM Governor - Associated Press

The Associated Press has sued Gov. Susana Martinez's administration for refusing to release records about her work and travel schedules, cell phone calls and expenses of security officers.

The lawsuits were filed Thursday in state district court in Santa Fe against the governor, the Department of Finance and Administration and Department of Public Safety.

The governor's office issued a statement in which it stood by its record on open government.

One lawsuit contends that agencies violated the Inspection of Public Records Act by not providing actual overtime and expense reports and receipts for security officers. The administration released aggregate tallies, saying disclosure of documents such as procurement card statements could create a security risk.

The other lawsuit seeks release of complete work calendars and redacted numbers from cell phone logs.

Proposal Reignites Passions Over Mexican Wolves - Associated Press

A regional official with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the limited area set aside in New Mexico and Arizona for recovery of the Mexican gray wolf is tying the agency's hands.

Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle says the agency can't maintain the species' genetic viability in such a small area.

A plan to expand the range of one of the Southwest's rarest animals has reignited passions about whether and where humans should coexist with the predators.

The Arizona Republic reports that ranchers and rural families were outraged as the expansion plan was discussed at a public meeting Tuesday in Pinetop. A similar meeting was held last month in Albuquerque.

Biologists say there are at least 75 Mexican gray wolves in the two states.

AP Newsbreak: NM Officer In Van Shooting On Leave - Associated Press

The New Mexico State Police officer who fired at a minivan full of children during a chaotic October traffic stop has been placed on administrative leave.

New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas told The Associated Press on Thursday that officer Elias Montoya has been placed on paid administrative leave pending a disciplinary investigation into the shooting outside the small tourist town of Taos.

Video from a dashboard camera on the police cruiser showed Montoya shooting at the minivan as motorist Oriana Farrell drove away from a chaotic traffic stop that included another officer bashing the van's window with his night stick. Farrell had been stopped by state police for speeding and fled twice after arguing with an officer.

She and her teen son were later arrested.

The video garnered national attention, and Kassetas said he would launch an internal investigation.

Chief: Man Shot By Police Didn't Have Gun - Associated Press

Albuquerque Police Chief Allen Banks says the man shot by police on Sunday didn't have a gun, but was holding an object that officers and witnesses mistook for one.

Banks told reporters Thursday that 34-year-old Shaine Sherrill pointed an unknown object at officers responding to a domestic disturbance before they shot him multiple times.

He called Sherrill's actions "overt and deliberate."

Banks says a knife and metal brake pad were found at the scene. He says officers have been unable to interview Sherrill, who remains in critical condition.

Officials say three officers were involved in the shooting, which was the fourth involving Albuquerque police in just over a month and the 33rd in three years.

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the department over the shootings and allegations of excessive force.