In the early morning of November 19, 2019 at 5:00 am, Jacqueline Vigil, the mother of two New Mexico State Police officers, was murdered in her car as she tried to leave her home for the gym. At the time, two violent criminal suspects were roaming the area casing the neighborhood for something to steal. Rumors ran rampant that the murder was about retaliation against law enforcement involving the victims two sons. For 8 months, the murder of Jacqueline Vigil was reported as unsolved by the Albuquerque Police Department (APD).
SAM VIGIL SPEAKS AT REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION
On August 26 Sam Vigil took the stage in Washington, D.C. before a nationally televised audience of the Republican convention to recount his horror of finding his wife, 55-year-old Jacqueline Vigil, murdered in the driveway of their home. Mr. Vigil recounted that he found his wife of 18 years slumped over in her car the morning of November 19 while he saw the killers flee in a Jeep Cherokee that had been blocking the driveway as his wife she tried to leave. The 3 minute speech before the national audience was very dignified and emotional as Mr. Vigil’s eyes welled up in tears and he recounted the brutal slaying of his wife.
Sam Vigil told the national audience in part:
“When I go to bed at night, that sound and that image haunt me. That’s my life sentence. It’s a sentence being served by too many families left behind by senseless killings. … For over eight months, there were no arrests and no leads in connection with Jackie’s murder. The Albuquerque police were overwhelmed. They needed help. … Help arrived when President Trump launched Operation Legend in July of this year. …
Almost immediately, the FBI took over Jackie’s case. In a matter of days, they arrested four people. The fifth – the suspected killer – is in a Texas jail. … [The man the FBI arrested for her murder had been] deported in September and had come back in October to terrorize our community. … It is a sad irony that Jackie immigrated to the U.S. for a better life than her native Colombia – only to be gunned down in her own driveway.
I am extremely grateful to President Trump and the FBI for their efforts to deliver justice for Jackie and all the other innocent victims of violent crime. I am honored to support the President because he is supporting us. I know he will never stop fighting for justice, for law and order, and for peace and security in our communities … ”
The link to the entire 3 minute speech is here:
MAYOR KELLER AND CHIEF GEIER REACT TO TALAMANTES INVESTIGATION AND ARREST
On August 19, Mayor Tim Keller and Chief Michael Geier released the following statements reacting to the arrest and custody Luis Talamantes.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller Statement
“This senseless murder shook Albuquerque because we all felt the loss of Jacqueline Vigil. We vowed to bring the killer to justice and to continue the fight against violent criminals in our city. For many months we have been aware that we were making real progress on the case but couldn’t comment publicly, or push back on a lot of myths being said about our police department. We are fortunate that APD has been doing the hard work over the last nine months to identify a suspect and ensure he was locked up and not able to commit additional crimes while they investigated the murder. We are all calling again on the prosecutors to move this case forward swiftly so the killer is brought to justice for the harm he has caused to our community.”
APD Chief Michael Geier Statement
“For the last nine months, our homicide detectives used many of their investigative tools, including our aggressive tracking of guns used in crimes, to build a case, and track down the suspect in Texas. We also benefited from Crimestoppers and productive tips from concerned citizens, to assist detectives. While we haven’t been able to publicly discuss this investigation, I hope the people of Albuquerque realize that we don’t give up on victims of violent crime.”
SCATHING ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL EDITORIAL
On Sunday, August 23rd, the following Albuquerque Journal editorial was published:
Editorial: As mayor and APD claim credit, feds make case against murder suspect
BY ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD
“Sam Vigil will never be able to get the image out of his head.
His wife, Jacque, an immigrant from Colombia whose two sons grew up to be New Mexico State Police officers, had just left their home in an upscale West Side neighborhood at 5 a.m. last Nov. 19 to go to the gym when he heard the horn on her Cadillac sedan. He went outside thinking she had forgotten her gym bag. Instead, he encountered a horrific scene in which Jacque had been shot and killed, slumped over in the vehicle that was still locked with the engine running.
“I noticed the bullet hole,” he said in a Journal interview in February. “They just shot her through the window of the car. And then I noticed the Jeep begin to pull out like a bat out of hell. … And I saw a face in that Jeep. … And it was just the most awful moment of my life. It still haunts me to this day.”
At least now, Sam Vigil told the Journal on Wednesday, he might be able to sleep at night with news that the suspect in his wife’s murder – 33-year-old Mexican national Luis Talamantes – is behind bars in Texas on felony illegal reentry charges.
We should all sleep better. Talamantes, a member of a Juárez-based street gang, was roaming neighborhoods in the predawn hours looking for something to steal, according to court documents. The preferred theft targets were Cadillacs and guns.
Federal agents and prosecutors went to court in San Antonio last week seeking to increase Talamantes’ possible prison sentence in the immigration case from about five years to 20 given his long criminal history and his alleged role in the murder of Jacque Vigil – who worked in a child care center and texted prayer verses morning and night to loved ones. She was 55.
Previously deported three times, Talamantes had already pleaded guilty to the reentry charges. He was arrested by ICE agents in January and has been in custody since. He has not been charged in Jacque Vigil’s death.
The federal government in 38 pages detailed evidence in the case along with Talamantes’ criminal history that includes domestic violence, criminal damage to property, aggravated stalking, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, receiving stolen property, shooting at a dwelling or occupied building and commercial burglary. He has done time in both state and federal prison.
“On this particular morning, J.V. suffered the tragic misfortune of opening her garage door and backing her car onto her driveway at the same time defendant was lurking nearby as he was looking for items to steal,” FBI Agent Bryan Acee wrote.
Jacque Vigil’s murder hit the national spotlight in July when President Donald Trump invited Sam Vigil to the White House as part of a press conference on Operation Legend, in which federal agents work with local partners in an effort to take down violent crime around the country.
Sam Vigil said there hadn’t seemed to be much progress in solving Jacque’s case – one of a record 80 murders in the city last year. “Once federal agents started working the case, things began to happen,” he told Journal investigative reporter Colleen Heild.
While federal agents laid out their case in court filings on Wednesday – Acee also was a key agent in Juárez cartel and Syndicato prosecutions – Mayor Tim Keller and APD chief Mike Geier were busy issuing a press release claiming credit.
“We are fortunate that APD has been doing the hard work over the last nine months to identify a suspect and ensure he was locked up,” they said. “The suspect was identified and arrested as a result of the work of APD homicide detectives long before Operation Legend and the U.S. Attorney got involved.”
Without question, work done by APD was recognized in the federal documents. APD’s call to Texas authorities is what got Talamantes picked up early this year. Crime Stoppers also played a role with tips.
But patting your own back to the exclusion of others’ nine long months after a heinous crime is tone deaf at best. So far the feds have let court documents do their talking, although it’s hard to imagine Trump won’t use this case for his own political agenda.
Politics aside, all this begs the proverbial elephant-in-the-room question. If APD had built such a solid case, why didn’t it arrest Talamantes and charge him with murder? Why was it up to federal agents and prosecutors to use an illegal immigration case to lay out the evidence in a killing that rocked Albuquerque like none has since little Victoria Martens? Why has it been left to federal authorities to keep Talamantes – a career criminal – locked up as long as possible?
Meanwhile, District Attorney Raúl Torrez says he is committed to prosecuting Talamantes once the investigation “is concluded and formally submitted to our office.” And why hasn’t that happened yet? Why does it appear the mayor and chief seem more interested in public relations than a viable murder prosecution?
Or is the district attorney dragging his feet, perhaps still feeling burned by the flawed APD investigation that turned the Martens prosecution into a courtroom debacle and left the case in the unsolved-murder column?
The evidence laid out in the federal court documents is compelling. It ranges from matched shell casings to an alleged confession by Talamantes to an inmate at MDC during a recorded telephone call. So give credit where it’s due: the feds have demonstrated in the past that they know how to put a case together. Now building on evidence gathered by APD, it appears they have done it again.
But they don’t have jurisdiction to bring the state charge that should be filed here. And that’s murder. That’s up to APD and the district attorney. The community deserves to know why that hasn’t happened – and if it ever will. That would be a press release worth reading.”
The link to the editorial is here:
CITY’S HOMICIDE AND CLEARANCE RATES
Tragically, the November 19, 2019 murder of Jacqueline Vigil was one of the 82 murders that occurred in the city in 2019. In 2018, during Mayor Keller’s first full year in office, there were 69 homicides. In 2019, during Mayor Keller’s second full year in office, there were 82 homicides. Albuquerque had more homicides in 2019 than in any other year in the city’s history. The previous high was 72, in 2017 under
republican Mayor RJ Berry. Another high mark was in 1996, when the city had 70 homicides.
The FBI reports that the national homicide clearance rate is 61%. In Albuquerque, in 2020 so far it’s 57%. It more likely than not the clearance rate will fall for 2020 as more murders occur. In 2019, APD’s clearance rate was 52.2% when the city reached 82 homicides in one year.
According to the proposed 2018-2019 APD City Budget, in 2016 the APD homicide clearance rate was 80%. In 2017, Mayor Berry’s last year in office, the clearance rate was 70%. In 2018, the first year of Keller’s term, the homicide clearance rate was 56%. In 2019, the second year of Keller’s term, the homicide clearance rate was 52.5%, the lowest clearance rate in the last decade.
As of August 22, there have been 50 homicides reported in Albuquerque for 2020. With 50 murders thus far for 2020, the city is on track to match or exceed the all-time record of 80 homicides in one year or come very close to it by the end of the year.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Any regular reader of the blog www.PeteDinelli.com know full well that the author is no fan of President Trump and supports and intends to vote for Joe Biden for President. With that said, anyone who watches the 3-minute speech of Sam Vigil, no matter their party affiliation nor who they support for President, can take pride in the manner in which Sam Vigil represented his family and in turn the City of Albuquerque on the national stage in the glare of the national media.
The sincerity and the pain Mr. Vigil and his family have endured was clearly reflected in his words, in his eyes, the tone of his voice, and the expression on his face. Mr. Vigil’s comments and exhibited feelings are what police officers, violent crime prosecutors and even violent crime defense attorneys see and deal with every day. As a former violent crime prosecutor, I have seen such emotions many times before, and such expressions are what motivates law enforcement and prosecutors to seek justice for victims and their family’s.
Going forward, Mayor Tim Keller and Chief Michael Geier would be wise to take the 3 minutes to view Sam Vigil’s speech in full, take the Journal Editorial comments to heart and forgo any and all press releases trying to take credit for cases. Both Keller and Geier should concentrate on APD’s Homicide Unit. Keller and Geier need to work on increasing APD’s clearance rate, arrest rate and sending the cases over to the District Attorney’s office for prosecution. Otherwise, they will be faced with again going to the defense of APD when other agencies are able to do what APD in incapable of doing: getting violent criminals off the streets of Albuquerque.
In other words, Keller and Geier both need to knock it off with their political gamesmanship in that at this point, people want results not press releases. If they can not do it, they need to admit it and be replaced come next year at election time. The senseless murders have got to stop.
For a related blog article see:
Federal Charges Filed Against 5 In Jacqueline Vigil Murder; Political Gamesmanship In A Presidential Election Year; Mayor Keller And Chief Geier Left With Egg On Faces