An Unanswered Question

Back in July, a person viewing my blog brought up an interesting point after reading what I wrote about the DAs office turning over the prosecution of former LCPD officer Chris Smelser to the NM Attorney General. The question the viewer had was simple and to the point. I wanted to address it then, but decided to wait until the preliminary hearing for Chris Smelser was completed. I waited because I did not want to give either the DA or the AGs office any opportunity to create excuses for not doing their jobs.


Here is what the reader asked: Where is the investigation into the drug dealer who dealt the methamphetamine to Antonio Valenzuela?


Excellent point. The pathologist who supervised Antonio Valenzuela's autopsy concluded on the death certificate that his death was homicide by asphyxiation with methamphetamine a significant contributing factor. At the preliminary hearing for Smelser, the pathologist said that she had performed autopsies on methamphetamine overdose victims who had much less methamphetamine in their systems than what Valenzuela had in his, and she also said she could not contribute Valenzuela's death solely to neck compressions during his struggle with arresting officers.


From a law enforcement standpoint it would be logical to assume that when this incident occurred on February 29 that there would be questions regarding where the meth came from after a bag of it was found in Valenzuela's pocket subsequent to his death.


If you are not familiar with homicide investigation, once a death occurs, and especially if it is related to the arrest of a suspect who died at the hands of police officers, the DAs office is immediately notified and they take over the case. The direction of it becomes their responsibility. In conjunction with that, the chief of police is notified and police department detectives conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death.


In this case, Valenzuela was traveling in the same vehicle with two females when they were pulled over and he decided to bail from the pickup truck and run. Those two females would have been the best source of information for where the dope came from. They most likely drove Valenzuela to the place where he bought it. Did the DAs office direct Metro Narcotics or LCPD detectives to find the source of the meth? Did the police chief? If not, why not? When the Office of the Medical Investigator says that methamphetamine was a "significant contributing factor" in Valenzuela's death, wouldn't it be reasonable to try and find out where he got it?


At the time that Valenzuela died nobody knew that meth was a significant contributing factor in his death, but it would still be incumbent upon the District Attorney's Office to take into consideration the fact that methamphetamine was found on the suspect and direct the investigation accordingly. Certainly any police chief worth his salt would assign someone to look into where the drugs were purchased. Methamphetamine is a Schedule II narcotic and illegal to possess outside of a prescription.


But none of this happened. Even after the DAs office and the police chief knew what the autopsy results were, and that meth played a part in killing Valenzuela, nobody directed the investigation into finding the person who ultimately must share in the blame for the death of Antonio Valenzuela. In fact, since the pathologist cannot say that neck compressions are the sole reason that caused Valenzuela's death, then the drugs he ingested may be altogether responsible for him dying.


The AGs office never mentioned it, either. So focused on charging a cop with a crime he did not commit that there has not been one peep from the publicity seeking New Mexico AG about the meth dealer. Why worry himself over finding a person who dealt dope that played a significant part in the death of another? There's no headline in that. The headline is in prosecuting cops for murder.


In a nutshell, that is what this entire prosecution of Smelser has been about: egotistical, self-serving, self-centered politicians using their offices to try and gain a leg up for higher office come next election cycle. It is beyond pathetic, and combined with anti-police rhetoric from the liberal left it is a reflection of how our political system has degenerated into the opportunistic persecution of any law enforcement officer perceived to have done wrong.


But drug dealers are safe.








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J.R. LONSWAY

AUTHOR | RETIRED DEPUTY CHIEF OF POLICE

J.R. Lonsway served 22 years with the Las Cruces, New Mexico, police department and retired as a Deputy Chief of Police. After retirement he served with the U.S. Department of State as a police advisor in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Liberia, Haiti, Lebanon, and South Sudan. He is a former U.S. Marine.

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