Glossing over facts must be a specialty at the Sun-News. Again, an article is printed regarding former LCPD Officer Chris Smelser that left out pertinent information regarding his case, and since facts matter I'll do what the newspaper did not. First and foremost, the pathologist who did the autopsy on Antonio Valenzuela testified at the preliminary hearing that she could not conclusively state that the vascular neck restraint Smelser attempted on Valenzuela caused his death. Valenzuela died from a combination of asphyxiation and methampetamines, and as the pathologist testified she has done autopsies on people who overdosed on meth who had far less in their systems than Valenzuela did in his.
Also, I was given information that the DAs office originally said in 2020 that Smelser acted within the scope of his legal authority trying to restrain Valenzuela, and then a couple of months later Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd and voila! Chris Smelser gets charged with manslaughter. A short time later, for reasons still not explained, the charges were suddenly dropped by the DAs office and the state AG took over the case. The AG bumped the charges up to 2nd degree murder. I was a cop 22 years and never saw that happen with any homicide in this county. Why won't the DAs office explain why they charged Smelser and then dropped the charges, and gave the case to the AG to prosecute?
Chris Smelser should have never been charged. The only thing Smelser is guilty of is working in a department that abandoned him when he utilized a restraining method taught to him by a defensive tactics instructor on authority of a police chief. Those two tucked their tails between their legs and ran away when what they should have been doing was defending their officer. LCPD was the only department in the state of New Mexico that authorized vascular neck restraint, while every other department in the state and almost the entire nation abandoned it because it was killing people. Saying that Smelser "did it wrong" with respect to applying the VNR is a cowardly cop out.
I read Peter Goodman's endorsement of Kim Stewart for sheriff. Again, facts are glossed over. If you didn't read my blog post written a few weeks ago, take some time to review it. Stewart is not the best candidate for the position. But here is additional information I did not include in that post: Mr. Goodman glosses over the fact that Kim Stewart doesn't play well in the sandbox with others by implying that since she worked for the county before and wasn't treated well she might be a bit "prickly" about relationships. That is nothing more than a justification for substandard behavior. Wasn't the previous sheriff being knocked for not getting along well with others and doing what he wanted instead of going through his bosses, the County Manager and County Commission? Didn't Mr. Goodman write about that?
Doña Ana County voters need to send a strong message to elected officials: just because you won an election does not mean you have the authority to do what you want, when you want, as you want. There are policies, procedures and protocol in place that are supposed to be followed.
Kim Stewart bumped up her administrative secretary to undersheriff because she wanted to, and then said her secretary would have no law enforcement responsibilities. What??? A pay raise from $47,000 to $86,683 for the title but without actually doing the job? On Sept. 7, 2021, Stewart informed Doña Ana County Human Resources in an email that she was appointing her admin secretary to undersheriff, and she didn't have to justify that move to anyone. Stewart later said that her secretary was never the undersheriff, but that she gave her the pay increase because she felt her secretary deserved it. Appointing an admin secretary as undersheriff was not only inappropriate, but foolish.
I was present in the county commission chambers in 2018 when Stewart was originally running for sheriff and she badmouthed the Border Patrol. It was regarding the Stonegarden grant. She publicly stated that, if elected, she would not approve the grant because she did not want her deputies working hand in hand with the Border Patrol. She said that to the applause of her liberal buddies, who all took turns at the podium trash talking the USBP. I remember thinking at that time what an ignorant statement for someone to make who is running for head of a law enforcement agency. The Stonegarden grant put $800,000 in DASOs budget and she was willing to turn it down because the other crybaby liberals who hate being asked about their citizenship at a checkpoint were upset, too? Then, lo and behold, she gets elected sheriff and suddenly she likes the Stonegarden grant! I think someone on the administrative staff, like a captain, talked some sense into her, but whatever the reason she contradicted her campaign promise.
Stewart told the newspaper that she would use portions of the Stonegarden grant to give airplane and bus rides to non-citizens allowed into the country while awaiting their immigration hearings. Wrong. No sheriff dictates to the federal government how their funds will be spent. The feds are specific about how their monies will be expended, and the grants are audited to prevent abuse. I suspect Stewart made that statement to appease her liberal buddies who hate the BP. The bottom line is, her deputies are working hand in hand with USBP in accordance with the grant.
Finally, Mr. Goodman implies that everything is hunky-dory at DASO and states that he hears nothing negative about Sheriff Stewart. I've got news for you, Mr. Goodman. Sources tell me that is not the case. From disputes over promotions to favoritism, to career officers leaving, many employees do not want to see her reelected but fear retribution if they speak publicly. On top of that, she does not possess the administrative background or experience to perform the duties of sheriff and it shows. Stewart is not the reason deputies have stayed at DASO; in 2017 the NM State Supreme Court found in their favor regarding a pay dispute and the deputies were subsequently awarded a substantial, and well deserved, pay raise before Stewart was ever elected.
Cops went into the school and stood outside the classroom unable to gain entry while 19 children and 2 teachers were murdered. Those officers were not cowards. They did not have the tools needed to breach the door to get in. What they needed was a shotgun with breaching rounds to gain entry and they did not possess one. It's as simple as that. When the Border Patrol Tac Team arrived they utilized one, went inside, and killed the suspect. Uvalde had just undergone active shooter training a couple of months before, but training officers without providing them the proper tools to accomplish the mission is useless. My understanding is that some departments have eliminated shotguns in favor of rifles for their officers, with only SWAT having breaching shotguns. That is a mistake, and what happened in Uvalde showed the sad reality of being unprepared.