On July 22, 2021, KOB Channel 4 did a two-year anniversary story on the death of Elisha Lucero at the hands of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department. The problem is, Channel 4 ostensibly did not even bother to ask Sheriff Manny Gonzales, who is now running for Mayor, for comment or if he had any regrets on what happened. No questions were asked of Gonzales of his refusal at the time to mandate the use of lapel cameras by his deputies. Further, Channel 4 failed to mention the other use of deadly force cases that have happened under Sheriff Gonzales and where he chose to defend the action of his deputies.
THE KILLING OF ELISHA LUCERO BY BCSO DEPUTIES
On July 21, 2019, Elisha Lucero, 28, who suffered psychosis and schizophrenia, was shot to death in front of her RV, which was parked in front of her family’s South Valley home. BCSO Deputies had responded to the home after a relative called 911 saying Lucero had hit her uncle in the face. According to the 911 call, a relative said Lucero was mentally ill, needed help, and was a threat to herself and to everybody else. Just one month prior, Lucero had called BCSO and asked to be taken to the hospital for mental health issues.
According to the lawsuit filed by here family, when BCSO deputies arrived, they said Lucero initially refused to come out of the home. Eventually, the 4-foot-11 Lucero, naked from the waist up, ran out screaming and armed with a kitchen knife. The BCSO Deputies pulled their revolvers and shot her claiming they feared for their lives. According to an autopsy report, Lucero was shot at least 21 times by the deputies. The two BCSO Deputies who shot and killed Elisha Lucero were not wearing lapel cameras. Sheriff Gonzales refused to have lapel cameras purchased and mandated for the BCSO.
CHANNEL 4 TWO YEAR ANNIVERSARY REPORT
Following is the the transcript of the July 22, 2021 Channel 4 news story with the link to the story:
HEADLINE: 2 YEARS LATER, THE INVESTIGATION INTO ELISHA LUCERO’S DEATH CONTINUES
“Elisha Lucero’s death was exactly two years ago.
“I don’t know why, but it seems like, you know, when you come across anniversaries, you start having feelings you haven’t felt in a while,” said Elaine Maestas, Lucero’s sister.
Lucero was shot and killed by Bernalillo County deputies in 2019. Maestas protested and fought for police accountability measures because when her sister was killed – deputies were not required to wear cameras.
Deputies said they tried to tase Lucero when she rushed them with a knife. Two years later, Maestas still questions that version of events.
Maestas has reviewed a 252-page multi-agency task force report and points to discrepancies. For example, an eyewitness account about the knife.
“So, I’m looking and trying to find her hands and I couldn’t find her hands, I couldn’t see the knife, and that bothered me the most. ‘Cause I was like, where did that knife go?” Maestas said.
There is also a log that shows a shots fired call went out at 12:54 a.m. – and the Taser was not activated until nearly nine minutes later, at 1:30 a.m.
“So we have alarming evidence that proves that this crime scene was tampered with,” Maestas said.
But a statement from a BCSO spokesperson offered an explanation: “Tasers do not calibrate time via cell tower or internet and do not reflect 100% accurate time stamps 100% of the time.”
BCSO also noted that the notion that something in the investigation was covered up is a “falsehood.”
The report also shows that Lucero had marijuana, meth and oxycodone in her system. Maestas said Lucero was self-medicating after her doctors said they couldn’t help her with a brain tumor.
Attorney General Hector Balderas is still investigating her death. He said he is working with experts and Lucero’s family, and they anticipate the investigation will conclude soon.
Last year, Lucero’s family reached a $4 million settlement after suing BCSO for the deadly shooting.
Here is the full statement BCSO provided to KOB 4:
We have conducted a fresh review of the case file data in response to your question.
The Taser logs for this incident reflect a single Taser activation took place. That’s one Taser activation for the entire duration of the call. Additionally, the audio recording of the incident, in its entirety, confirms that a single Taser activation took place for the entire duration of the call. At 31:48 min into the audio recording, the attempted Taser activation can be heard. Seconds later, the same recording captures the audio of the gunshots on scene. There are no Taser activations afterward. This is evidenced by both the Taser activation log and audio recordings.
As far as the time stamp on the Taser log: The internal clock of a Taser is just that, internal- similar to that of a wristwatch, an analog clock on the wall. Tasers do not calibrate time via cell tower or internet and do not reflect 100% accurate timestamps 100% of the time.
This incident, like all Deputy involved shootings, was investigated by a multijurisdictional shooting investigations team and we stand by their work. The notion that something in the investigation of this incident was “covered up” is a falsehood.”
The link to the Channel 4 story is here:
GONZALES AND BCSO DENY FAULT AFTER $4 MILLION SETTLEMENT; SICKENED BY AMOUNT OF SETTLEMENT
On January 13, 2020, the Lucero family filed a lawsuit alleging Sheriff Manny Gonzales had fostered a “culture of aggression” in the department and too few deputies were trained to handle people with mental health issues. The allegation of a “culture of aggression” and the use of deadly force when dealing with the mentally ill is identical to what the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation found within the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) 6 years ago resulting in the DOJ federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement.
The Lucero family civil suit alleges:
“the deputies created a situation where they were forced to use deadly force against Ms. Lucero or have justified their unlawful use of deadly force with the falsehood that Ms. Lucero presented a deadly threat to one or all of them.”
On March 6, 2020 it was reported that Bernalillo County settled the Lucero family lawsuit for $4 Million dollars. After the $4 Million settlement was announced, Sheriff Manny Gonzales and his department issued the following statement about the settlement:
“BCSO’s commitment is to protecting children and families, and as such, we responded legally and appropriately while in communication with the family to protect the welfare of all involved. Our condolences are with the family for their loss.”
A BCSO spokesperson said they do not admit any fault:
“While the Sheriff’s Department is aware of the settlement and had involvement in the settlement process we are sickened with the amount of the settlement agreement. The Sheriff’s Department does not admit any fault on behalf of the employees involved and holds firm in its belief that our deputies have a right and a duty to protect themselves and others from harm and/or death. Furthermore, the Sheriff and any/all deputies named in the lawsuit were removed prior to the settlement agreement.
We understand that, although a typical personal injury trial will not last more than a few days, the process can be extremely stressful for everyone involved. The process itself can take years and in some cases decades prior to the actual trial. We also understand that many cases are settled out of court as this case was.
We are represented by New Mexico Association of Counties and we acknowledge that the decision to settle a case like this is something that they do based upon an extreme number of variables.
“USE OF DEADLY FORCE” CASES DURING SHERIFF GONZALES TENURE
There is no doubt as Sheriff Gonzales runs for Mayor, his total mismanagement of BCSO will be examined as will any and all lawsuits filed against the department under his watch for systemic racial profiling, excessive use of force and deadly force. Bernalillo County has been forced to pay out upwards of $10 million in settlements involving the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) over a 2 year period of Sheriff Gonzales tenure as Sheriff.
When settlements he did not like were announced, Gonzalez said the amounts were excessive and he defended the actions of his sheriff’s deputies. As an act of defiance, Gonzales even issued commendations to the deputies involved with the killing of an 88-year-old suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, claiming they acted properly.
Following is a listing of the cases in addition to the Elisha Lucero case:
2015 WRONGFUL DEATH OF FIDENCIO DURAN: $1,495,000 SETTLEMENT
Bernalillo County settled the wrongful death case of Fidencio Duran for the sum of $1,495,000.
It was on September 14, 2015, Fidencio Duran, 88, died after he was shot numerous times with a “pepper ball” gun after he encountered BCSO Deputy Sheriffs in the South Valley. Mr. Duran was partially blind and deaf and suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. His wife of 67 years had died the day before after a three-year bout with illness. Duran wandered around the neighborhood shirtless. He banged on the door of a neighbor, who called the BCSO.
When BCSO Deputies arrived, a 90-minute standoff ensued, in which Mr. Duran, shirtless and wearing one shoe and reportedly holding a four-inch knife, spoke, sometimes incoherently, in Spanish. Eventually, the BCSO officers fired over 50 rounds of pepper balls at him from two directions. Some of the pepper balls penetrated his skin, causing contusions and embedding fragments of plastic.
BCSO officers unleashed a muzzled K9 police dog after shooting with pepper balls. The dog knocked the 115-pound man over, breaking his femur and hip. He was taken to the hospital, where it took doctors days to remove all of the pepper ball fragments. He never left the hospital, succumbing to pneumonia as a result of his injuries a month later. A doctor from the Office of the Medical Investigator “determined that the manner of death was Homicide” according to a civil lawsuit filed.
In an ostensible act of defiance, Sheriff Manny Gonzales issued commendations to the deputies involved.
2017 WRONGFUL DEATH OF ROBERT CHAVEZ: $700,000 SETTLEMENT
On August 16, 2017, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputies spotted a stolen car near Coors and ILiff. When they tried to pull over the vehicle a chase ensued. The stolen vehicle crashed into Robert Chavez’, 66, car near Broadway and Avenida Cesar Chavez in the Southwest part of the city. When Robert Chavez was hit, Chavez broke his back, shoulder, forearm, wrist, ribs and pelvis in the crash and also had other internal injuries. Chavez went into a coma and died 11 days after the crash. A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the county and BCSO.
The BCSO Sheriff Department’s old policy would not have allowed officers to pursue for a stolen vehicle, but Sheriff Manny Gonzales changed the hot pursuit policy allowing such chases a year before the fatal crash. The Bernalillo County settled with Mr. Chavez’ family for $700,000 but not before the county backout of a $1 Million settlement.
2017 KILLING OF MARTIN JIM AND SHOOTING OF ISAAC PADILLA: $3.3 MILLION SETTLEMENT
On November 17, 2017, BCSO Deputies, at around 4 am in the morning, initiated a high-speed chase of a stolen truck across the South Valley on November 17, 2017. A BCSO Deputy rammed the truck at Coors and Glenrio NW on Albuquerque’s West Side obliterating the front driver’s-side wheel. With the truck at a standstill, two BCSO deputies parked their vehicles to block the truck from moving forward.
BCSO Deputy Joshua Mora soon arrived on the scene. Mora is the son of then-undersheriff Rudy Mora and had worked for BCSO about 18 months as a sheriff’s deputy. In the span of 18 seconds, Mora jumped from his car, ran to the truck, yelled commands at the driver, and fired 7 shots into the vehicle occupied by 3 passengers, including a 4-year-old child. Mora did no know Martin Jim was sitting in the back seat. A settlement in the case was reached after Senior U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera of Albuquerque ruled that a “reasonable jury could conclude that Deputy Mora acted unreasonably.”
On May 21, 2020, it was reported that the family of Martin Jim, 25, the man killed in 2017 incident settled the federal excessive force lawsuit against the county for $1.5 million. An earlier $400,000 state court settlement arising from the same deadly shooting paid to Jim’s partner, Shawntay Ortiz and his four-year-old son, amounted to $1.9 million. That is an addition to the $1.36 million settlement paid to the estate of the driver of the pickup truck, Isaac Padilla, 23, who was also killed. Another $40,000 was paid to two other passengers in the truck. The total payout to resolve legal claims related to Deputy Joshua Mora’s actions was $3.3 million.
The defendants, Mora, the county and Sheriff Manny Gonzales maintained Martin Jim’s death was unintentional and that the killing of Isaac Padilla, the driver of the truck, was justified. No weapons were found in the truck negating Mora’s defense that his actions were justified and in self-defense.
BCSO RACIAL PROFILING CASES SETTLED: $100,000 SETTLEMENT AND COUNTING
It was on December 6, 2017 that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico filed a lawsuit on behalf of Sherese Crawford, a 38-year-old African-American woman on temporary assignment in New Mexico as an Immigration and Customs Agent (ICE) deportation officer. The lawsuit alleged that Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) deputies racially profiled her by pulling her over three times, twice by the same deputy, within a month with no probable cause or reasonable suspicion that she was breaking the law. None of the three times she was pulled over was she given a warning or a citation.
ACLU of New Mexico Staff Attorney Kristin Greer Love had this to say at the time:
“Our client is an accomplished federal agent who was targeted for driving while black … BCSO unlawfully and repeatedly stopped her because she fit a racial profile. Targeting people because of the color of their skin is unconstitutional and bad policing. Racial discrimination has no place in New Mexico, and BCSO must take immediate action to ensure that this behavior does not continue.”
On July 8, 2020, it was reported that two black women from Wisconsin are suing Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales and two deputies alleging racial and religious profiling stemming from a traffic stop in July 2017. The lawsuit was filed about five months after Bernalillo County reached a $100,000 settlement with Sherese Crawford, a 38-year-old African-American who filed a lawsuit against BCSO after she was pulled over three times in 28 days by BCSO deputies Patrick Rael and Leonard Armijo, the same deputies named in the new lawsuit, in spring 2017.
The civil case was filed by Sisters Consweyla and Cynthia Minafee, and a 5-year-old child, Yahaven Pylant, were traveling from Phoenix back to Wisconsin when they were pulled over by Rael on Interstate 40 the morning of July 7, 2017. Cynthia Minafee was Yahaven’s legal guardian at the time. According to the lawsuit, the traffic stop lasted almost an hour and included an extensive search of the vehicle with a drug dog.
According to the lawsuit, Rael told the women to get out of the car and said he could smell marijuana on Cynthia. Cynthia said that she had not smoked in the car and that there was no marijuana in the vehicle. Consweyla Minafee, the driver, was not issued a traffic citation, but Cynthia Minafee was issued a citation for not having Yahaven properly restrained. The citation was dismissed in May, online court records show.
A link to a news source is here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The term “DINO” means “Democrat In Name Only” but it can also be shorthand for “dinosaur”. When it comes to Manny Gonzales, the term has both meanings. Gonzales is a “Democrat In Name Only” and a Sheriff who is a dinosaur when it comes to unconstitutional policing practices that existed before the Black Lives Matter movement.
Sheriff Gonzales is now running for Mayor on a “law and order” platform. His mismanagement of BCSO will be a major issue as well as his well-known opposition to many of the reforms of APD mandated by the consent decree.
“I don’t work for the governor. I don’t work for the mayor. I don’t work for the president of the United States. I answer to the people who voted me into office.”
With these words, Sherriff Manny Gonzales shows himself to be a person who listens and answers to no one, other than those who voted him into office. During his 7 years as Sheriff, Gonzales has refused to cooperate and do anything the County Commission or County Manager asked of him.
It is not even certain he will listen to the courts and do what they tell him whenever the time comes to it. His resistance to cooperate with the District Attorney’s Office and disclose what is required to be disclosed by the US Supreme Court indicates he feels law enforcement is above the law.
As Mayor, he will likely ignore the City Council, ignore the Police Oversight Board and Civilian Policing Councils saying they did not elect him. He will also likely do what he can to ignore the Court Approved Settlement Agreement and the reforms, saying he did not agree to them and as a former law enforcement official he feels the CASA has been a disaster.
When it comes to the Sheriff’s Department under Manny Gonzales, it is clear that the department is way behind the times when it comes to constitutional policing practices. Sheriff Gonzales for years has resisted civilian oversight of BCSO often ignoring the citizen advisory board recommendations. Most recently, Sheriff Gonzales resisted the U.S. Supreme Court mandated disclosures of police misconduct of officers who testify in court.
The deaths of Fidencio Duran, Robert Chavez, Martin Jim, and Elisha Lucero as well as the shooting injuries to Isaac Padilla, Shawntay Ortiz and his four-year-old son were all preventable had BCSO Sheriff’s Deputies been properly trained in constitutional policing practices. In this day and age of George Floyd and the Black Lives Movement, there is absolutely no excuse for BCSO involved with racial profiling cases involving any minority, but that’s what we got with Gonzales as Sheriff.
One of the biggest problems is that Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales has shown himself to be a law enforcement “throw back” to by gone days, especially with his refusal to order the use of lapel cameras before the State legislature mandated it and his resistance to make mandatory disclosures of officer misconduct to the District Attorney’s office as mandated by the United States Supreme Court.
In a 2-year period Bernalillo County has been forced to pay out $8,595,000 in settlements involving the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office for deadly force and civil rights violations. It appears to be a question of not if but when the BCSO will get hit with another use of deadly force case unless the department does a major review of its practices and training and as Sheriff Gonzales moves on and his term expires in 2022.
The very last thing the city needs as Mayor of Albuquerque is one who only “answers to the people who voted” him into office. Gonzales does not realize a Mayor must represent virtually everyone who lives in the city, the good, the bad, Democrats, Republicans and Independents and even those who do not vote for him or dislike him.
Frankly, there are just way too many reasons a Mayor Manny Gonzales would be a disaster . You do not replace one disaster with another disaster when it comes to law enforcement, APD and BCSO.
The link to a related bog article is here: