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Entries in New Mexico (32)

Wednesday
Jan232013

NM Massacre Suspect's Family: Teen Was 'Bright, Curious,' but 'Troubled'

Handout(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) -- Relatives of a New Mexico teenager accused of killing his mother, father and younger siblings with an assault rifle, then telling police he hoped to shoot up a Walmart, are described as stunned by his actions and "heartbroken over this senseless tragedy."

Though surviving relatives conceded in an unsigned "family statement" that 15-year-old Nehemiah Griego is a "troubled young man," the statement also described him as an outgoing boy who loved music and hoped one day to serve in the military.

"We know him as a bright, curious and incredibly talented young man.  He was a brother, nephew, grandson and cousin," said the statement, which was obtained by ABC News affiliate KOAT in Albuquerque from former New Mexico state Sen. Eric Griego, the suspect's uncle.

"We are deeply concerned about the portrayal in some media of Nehemiah as some kind of a monster," said the statement.  "It is clear to those of us who know and love him that something went terribly wrong.  Whether it was a mental breakdown or some deeper undiagnosed psychological issue, we can't be sure yet.  What we do know is that none of us, even in our wildest nightmare, could have imagined that he could do something like this."

Nehemiah Griego, the son of an Albuquerque pastor, had plans to kill his family, his 12-year-old girlfriend's family and local Walmart shoppers for weeks before he acted on the impulse on Sunday, according to police.

"Nehemiah said after killing five of his family members he reloaded the weapons so that he could drive to a populated area to murder more people," read a police report from the incident released on Tuesday.

"Nehemiah stated he wanted to shoot people at random and eventually be killed while exchanging gunfire with law enforcement," the report said.

However, after allegedly killing his family members, Nehemiah ended up spending most of his day with his girlfriend rather than going to the Walmart, Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston said on Tuesday.

Nehemiah later was arrested and is expected to face adult charges of murder and child abuse resulting in death.  He waived his right to arraignment in adult court Tuesday and a judge ordered him held without bond.

The district attorney's office and Nehemiah's public defender now are preparing to face a grand jury, KOAT reported.

"We never had a case like this, as far as I know, in the state of New Mexico," District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said, "so I can't compare this to any other case."

Police also are considering charging Nehemiah's girlfriend, who they have not named publicly.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan032013

New Mexico Republican Arrested for Stalking Political Rival

Photodisc/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A former Republican candidate for Congress in New Mexico is being held for allegedly stalking his opponent after he was previously arrested for allegedly slashing her tires.

Gary Smith, 56, was arrested Wednesday on felony aggravated stalking charges when former Republican nominee for Congress Janice Arnold-Jones' husband spotted Smith's car near their Albuquerque home on New Year's Day.  Arnold-Jones' surveillance video also captured the red car pulling up near her driveway, according to police.

Det. Lorenzo Garcia told ABC News on Wednesday that Smith made a statement that he didn't know driving by Arnold-Jones' home was a violation of his bail, although a judge told him to stay away from the premises after he was arrested on Dec. 28, and charged with criminal damage to property for allegedly slashing her tires.

"A candidate for Congress was violating another candidate's vehicle.  These are all stalking charges.  Who knows if he was there all night, if he was planning to do vandalism or further harm," Garcia said.

Smith ran against Arnold-Jones in New Mexico's first congressional district primary back in June.  Arnold-Jones won the primary but lost the general election to Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Arnold-Jones became suspicious of numerous tire slashings around the neighborhood and set up a surveillance system outside her home.

"The morning of the [December] 20th at 3:30 a.m., Gary Smith is very visible taking out all of our tires yet again.  All eight tires," Arnold-Jones told ABC News.

Smith's former campaign manager, Rhead Story, says his tires were slashed some 54 times and believes his former boss is behind it.

"I'm scared for my children.  I'm scared for everyone else that's involved, because something has gone wrong," said Story.  "The power steering fluid was punctured and the windshield wiper hose was ripped out.  He could have been going for the brake lines, we don't know."

"He's been warned to not come near any of us.  Not even our neighborhood yet he's here," Arnold-Jones said after Smith's latest arrest.

Smith is scheduled to appear in court Friday and other charges may come, Garcia said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov022012

Tasered 10-Year-Old Boy Sues Police

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(TULAROSA, N.M.) -- A 10-year-old boy attending a Tularosa, N.M., Intermediate School’s Career Day expected it to be fun and educational, but instead he ended up in the emergency room.

The boy, identified as R.D., blacked out after receiving 50,000 volts of electricity when struck by a police officer’s Taser gun.

Rachel Higgins, a guardian appointed by the court to protect the child’s privacy filed a lawsuit Oct. 26 in 1st Judicial District Court in Santa Fe County against Police Officer Chris Webb and the New Mexico Department of Public Safety on behalf of R.D., claiming that Webb fired his electronic control weapon at the boy on May 4, 2012.

Webb has been charged with battery, failure to render emergency medical care, unreasonable seizure and excessive force.

Higgins will appear in court to represent the boy because the family members live in a small town and do not want to reveal their identities.

The lawsuit claims police officers drove their patrol cars onto the intermediate school campus, where Webb asked a group of boys which one would like to clean his patrol unit.

R.D. raised his hand to say he did not want to clean the police officer’s car.

Webb then said, according to the lawsuit, “Let me show what happens to people who do not listen to the police.”  He then “shot his Taser gun at the boy’s chest,” said the family’s attorney Shannon Kennedy of the Kennedy Law Firm of Albuquerque.

Kennedy said instead of calling paramedics over, who were also on campus for the Career Day event, Webb pulled the barbs from the Taser out of the boy’s chest.

“He grabbed the wires, he yanked them and it came out of the prongs, and then he went up to me and he ripped the prongs out of my chest,” R.D. told ABC News in September.

The boy said the officer then took him to the restroom to wash off and then to the nurses office.

“R.D.’s mother arrived at the school in absolute shock and rushed him to the emergency room,” said Kennedy.

The lawsuit claims that as a result of the battery, the boy now has symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“He wakes up in the middle of the night holding his chest afraid his heart will stop,” said Kennedy. “He says, 'Mommy I’m afraid I’ll never wake up again.'”

According to the police report, Webb said a group of students had asked him to show them his Taser gun, and when he pulled it out, it accidentally went off and hit R.D. in the chest.

Webb stated in the report that he immediately shut off the power switch, removed the cartridge and threw the Taser gun to the ground.

Calls to the New Mexico Motor Transportation Police Department by ABC News were not returned.

Kennedy said she received a response to a public records request that showed an officer had tested the Taser gun to check for any malfunctions.

“Officer Michael Walker generated a Taser X26 report showing that the Taser had no problems with its battery, that it fired correctly, and that it did not deploy when shaken from side to side,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy said there was no monetary cap for damages in the lawsuit, but because it’s a federal case it could end in a multi-million dollar verdict.

ABC News did reach out to Tularosa New Mexico Intermediate School, but the school said it couldn’t comment because of the pending litigation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct152012

Daredevil Felix Baumgartner Says He Couldn't Feel Speed of Sound

Jay Nemeth/Red Bull Content Pool(ROSWELL, N.M.) -- Daredevil Felix Baumgartner shattered the speed of sound and broke three records on Sunday after he took a leap from 24 miles above the Earth on the edge of space.

At one point during his freefall, the 43-year-old Austrian was traveling at 833 mph or Mach 1.24, a feat that normally could only be accomplished by a supersonic jet, or perhaps the space shuttle.

"It is hard to describe [breaking the speed of sound] because I didn't feel it," Baumgartner said after the jump.  "When you're in a dead pressure suit [and without reference points] you don't feel anything."

Aside from being the only man to achieve a supersonic skydive, the extreme athlete also broke two other records, including the highest exit from a platform at 128,000 feet and the highest free-fall without a drogue parachute, which was measured at 119,846 feet.

Baumgartner said he felt he was in trouble at one point during his 4 minute, 20 second freefall when his visor began to fog up.  He also then went into a spin.

"It's hard to tell what happened because I have to look at the video footage. ... Somehow I started spinning... It felt like a flat spin," Baumgartner said, adding that he felt a lot of pressure in his head during the fall.

He soon regained his vertical velocity and was able to pull his parachute, landing approximately nine minutes after millions tuned in online, and held their breath, as he made history.

Despite the momentous day, there was one record Baumgartner didn't shatter -- the longest elapsed freefall record.

Fifty-two years later, the 4 minute and 36 second record still belongs to Joe Kittinger.  The 84-year-old former air force pilot served as a mentor to Baumgartner and was in contact with him during the jump Sunday.

"Better champions cannot be found. ... He did a fantastic job today," Kittinger said.  "[And] I'd like to give a special one finger salute to all the folks who said he was going to come apart when he went supersonic."

Baumgartner's feat came on the 65th anniversary of legendary pilot Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier.

When asked what he would do next, Baumgartner said he'd like to be sitting in his mentor's chair.

"Honestly I want to inspire the next generation," he said.  "I would love if there was a young guy sitting next to me asking what my advice is, wanting to break my record."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct052012

Daredevil Felix Baumgartner Preps for 120,000-Foot Skydive

Red Bull(ROSWELL, N.M.) -- Felix Baumgartner has a tattoo on his arm: "Born to Fly."  He will put that to the ultimate test on Monday, when he attempts a record-setting, death-defying jump from the edge of space.

"I practiced this for so many years and now we are almost there," he said.  "So this is my biggest dream, and we are one step closer."

One step closer to a dream that would be a nightmare for most people -- stepping out of a capsule 120,000 feet (23 miles) above Roswell, N.M., to plummet back to Earth at 690 mph.  If all goes as hoped, he will be in freefall for almost five minutes, becoming the first person to break the sound barrier outside an aircraft.  He will break records that have stood for 52 years.  

Red Bull is sponsoring this mission, called Stratos, and its team of 200 has worked for five years to make this mission a success.

Baumgartner already jumped from 90,000 feet in July.  That was practice.

Every member of the team acknowledges the risks: extreme cold, the vacuum of space, temperature fluctuations, an uncontrolled flat spin that could hit 220 rpm, drogue chute failure, spacesuit puncture, and life support systems failure.

Baumgartner will ascend in a pressurized capsule at dawn, in a balloon that will be 700 feet tall when filled with helium.  The preparations start at midnight, with an hour or so to oxygenate Baumgartner to purge his body of nitrogen.

The ascent to 120,000 feet will take a couple of hours.  Once Baumgartner reaches altitude, he will depressurize the capsule, step out onto a ledge, and dive back down to Earth -- a plunge that could take seven minutes.  He will have parachutes to slow him down when he hits 5,000 feet or terminal velocity. 

Terminal velocity occurs when a falling body experiences zero acceleration -- as he gets closer to Earth, the atmosphere gets denser so he will slow down and there will be less friction on his spacesuit.  Or so they hope.

Dr. Jonathan Clark heads the medical team and ticks off the risks on his fingers: "If you are going to be above 50,000 feet you wear a pressure suit, above 63,000 feet the water in your body would start to boil and your body is 70 percent water."

If Baumgartner succeeds he will break the record set on Aug. 16, 1960, when Air Force Col. Joe Kittinger jumped from a balloon at an altitude of 102,900 feet.  He fell for almost five minutes before opening a parachute to slow his decent at 18,000 feet.  He made history for the highest balloon ascent, the highest parachute jump, and the fastest speed by a human being through the atmosphere.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun192012

Did Mexican Drug Cartel Fix Horse Race Result?

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The general manager of a U.S. horseracing track denied allegations Monday that the chief of Mexico's most violent drug cartel had fixed a $1 million race so his own horse would win.

According to two confidential FBI informants, Zetas leader Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, also known as "40," bragged that he had paid the gatekeepers at New Mexico's Ruidoso Downs $10,000 "to hold back the horses" competing against his own horse, Mr. Piloto, in the 2010 All American Futurity Race, which Mr. Piloto won.

Trevino Morales and 13 other defendants were indicted last week for allegedly laundering at least $20 million in cocaine profits through horse racing, breeding and training in the U.S. The informants' claims were part of an affidavit filed in support of a search warrant for an Oklahoma horse ranch allegedly owned by a Zetas front corporation.

Shaun Hubbard, general manager of Ruidoso Downs, adamantly denied the informants' alleged charge.

"We have looked at the videotape of the 2010 All American Futurity from every angle many times in recent days and can see no evidence of any horse being held or denied a fair start," said Hubbard in a statement to ABC News.

"We can find no evidence that there was any wrongdoing by our starting-gate crew," added Hubbard. "We also want to make it clear that we have totally cooperated with the FBI investigation and will continue to offer support for this investigation."

One of the confidential informants also alleged in the affidavit that his horses had competed against horses belonging to Omar Trevino Morales, AKA 42, in Mexico but, that 42's horses "would always win because of CI #1's knowledge that '42' would get upset at a loss and most likely kill his opponent as a result."

A third confidential informant allegedly stated that in 2007, in Monclova, Mexico, an individual named Triana had entered his own rooster in a cockfight against a rooster owned by 42. Triana's rooster won. "Approximately 15 days after the rooster fight, '42' had Triana killed because '42's' rooster had lost the fight," CI #3 allegedly said.

Miguel Angel Trevino and Omar Trevino allegedly laundered their drug profits through a horseracing operation run by a third brother, Jose, and his wife, according to the U.S. indictment handed down in Texas last week. Jose Trevino Morales, his wife and six other defendants were arrested. Miguel Angel and Omar remain at large in Mexico. The Drug Enforcement Administration has offered $5 million apiece for information leading to the capture of Miguel Angel and Omar.

The brothers, whose numeric aliases refer to their alleged rank within the Zetas at the time of the cartel's creation several years ago, are now allegedly top leaders of an organization that controls drug trafficking in the east and south of Mexico. Miguel, or "40," allegedly runs the Zetas along with "3," Heriberto Lazcano.

The Zetas began in 1999 when former members of the Mexican military signed on to work as security for the Gulf drug cartel. The Zetas went into business for themselves and are now at war with the Gulf Cartel. The Zetas are based in Nuevo Laredo, in Tamaulipas state just across the border from Laredo, Texas.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun112012

Massive Wildfires in Colorado, New Mexico Force Hundreds to Evacuate

iStockphoto/Thinkstock (file photo)(DENVER) -- Firefighters in New Mexico and Colorado are battling wildfires that have spread quickly in all directions, forcing hundreds to flee from their homes across both states.

In Colorado, at least 18 structures -- including homes -- have been destroyed, with one person missing and feared dead, according to authorities.  In just two days, flames have torched over 30 square miles.

"If you talk about worst-case scenario, this is our worst-case scenario," Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said.

Hundreds of residents have been evacuated ahead of the flames.  Authorities sent at least 2,575 evacuation notices, but it wasn't clear how many residents had to leave, according to ABC News affiliate KMGH in Denver.

Some residents claim they didn't receive any notice and their only warning was hearing the fire coming toward their doorsteps.

"It was terrible.  It sounded like a hurricane," said Sandra Mullen, according to KMGH.  "I think everything will be gone.  My husband is 78 and I'm 75, so when you're that old, it's too hard to start over."

"It looked like Armageddon," said resident Joanne Hertz.  "I have absolutely no clue if my house is still standing."

Resources are spread thin in Larimer County as other western states need tankers, helicopters and ground crews to battle their own wildfires, sheriff's spokesman Nick Christensen told KMGH.

In New Mexico, a destructive fire near Ruidoso tripled in size over the weekend and destroyed 40 buildings.  Crews were working to build a fire line around the blaze, which started Friday.

The exact number of evacuations is not known, but they were reported to be in the hundreds.

Winds and dry air continue to fuel the burning fires -- everything needed for a perfect firestorm.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
May072012

New Mexico Fat Cat 'Meow' Dies

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SANTA FE, N.M.) -- Meow, the 39-pound cat from New Mexico who made national headlines in his quest to lose weight, has died.

The Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society announced Meow's death in a Facebook post, saying the two-year-old cat passed away Saturday afternoon after suffering respiratory distress and then pulmonary failure.

Meow gained national attention last month after he was abandoned by his elderly owner and sent to the shelter which put the obese cat on a diet in hopes he could lose enough weight to be adopted.

The orange-and-white tabby made a round of appearances on national TV shows with shelter officials to chronicle his weight loss efforts.  He was in the care of a foster home at the time of his death.

"Meow had been doing so well in his foster home; walking up stairs and seeking affection; that it is so very hard to believe he is gone," the shelter said in its Facebook statement.

"We will forever be grateful for the attention Meow's size brought to pet obesity and to animal shelters across the country."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar052012

Child's Body Recovered from New Mexico Well

iStockphoto/Thinkstock (file photo)(CARLSBAD, N.M.) -- After hours of work, rescue teams in southeastern New Mexico recovered the body of a 4-year-old boy from the bottom of a narrow 30-foot well Monday morning.

"They did recover the boy, just a short time ago," Carlsbad Fire Department Battalion Chief Ron Steven told ABC News.

The Carlsbad Police Department confirmed to ABC News' Albuquerque affiliate KOAT that the boy, Samuel Jones, was dead.

A number of rescue teams including police, firefighters, construction workers and mining crews worked through Sunday and into Monday morning to reach Jones.  The teams had to dig into the hole at a slanted angle in order to avoid a collapse.  They reached him at about 7 a.m. MT.

"They dug a huge hole surrounding a small diameter hole he fell into to access him," Steven said.  "There was some hand digging at the last little bit."

Jones' body was put into an ambulance and taken away from the site.

Authorities believe the young boy fell down the 30-foot hole, which has a diameter of only 14 inches.  On Sunday, the Carlsbad Fire Department said they determined that the conditions of the fall would not be survivable due to low temperatures and a lack of oxygen at the bottom of the hole.

The boy disappeared from his home Saturday afternoon where he was last seen playing in the yard with some young cousins.  It was originally believed that he had been abducted.

An Amber Alert issued for Jones was canceled on Sunday after the discovery of a hole on a property next door to his house.

A detective shined a light into the hole and saw what appeared to be a body.  A camera that was sent down showed clothing that appeared to match what Jones was last seen wearing, according to KOAT.

An official cause of death has not yet been determined.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb282012

Lap Dance Extortion Plot Rocks New Mexico Mayoral Election

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(SUNLAND PARK, N.M.) -- Two city hall employees in Sunland Park, N.M. are wanted in an alleged blackmail investigation of a mayoral candidate that has already snared the city's acting mayor and city manager.

Dario Hernandez, the Sunland Park public works director and Martah Alonda Lozano, a human resources assistant, are wanted in connection with the alleged extortion of mayoral candidate Gerardo Hernandez, who is not related to Dario Hernandez.

Last week, a video of Gerardo Hernandez surfaced, which appeared to show him receiving a lap dance at his office.

According to District Attorney Amy Orlando, who has been investigating the case, Gerardo claimed that the video had been a set up by his political rivals and that he had been approached prior to the video's release and told to drop out of the mayoral election or risk having the video go public.

On Saturday, New Mexico State Police arrested Sunland Park's Mayor Pro-Tem Daniel Salinas and Jaime Aguilera, the city manager.  They are being charged with extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, tampering with evidence and conspiracy to tamper with evidence for the alleged blackmailing of Gerardo Hernandez.

The pair were jailed at Dona Ana County Correctional Center, each on $50,000 cash-only bond.

Their arrests came five days after the New Mexico State Police executed a search warrant at the Sunland Park City Hall.

According to the arrest affidavit released by Orlando, as the police were executing that search, surveillance video captured Dario Hernandez telling Aguilera, "They are coming, get rid of the video."

After the search, according to New Mexico State Police Public Information Officer Robert McDonald, investigators found footage of Gerardo Hernandez with a nude woman that was being manipulated with editing software on Aguilera's computer.

In addition to Dario Hernandez warning Aguilera, Lozano was seen by police running towards the mayor's office as they entered the building.  Lozano allegedly then locked the door, before quickly leaving out of a separate exit.

The arrest affidavit stated that once police were able to access the mayor's office, they found his desk "in disarray, computer cables were left exposed."  In addition, they believed at least one computer was missing.

Orlando said New Mexico law enforcement were working with the Texas police on apprehending Lozano and Dario Hernandez, since both staffers are residents of El Paso, Texas.

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