Operation LeGend

Jacqueline Vigil of Albuquerque was murdered in her driveway in the early morning hours of November 19, 2019, while sitting in her car. She was headed to the gym. Police later found a vehicle they believe was involved in the homicide but no suspects have been arrested. Jacqueline Vigil was married and the mother of two New Mexico State Police officers.


On Wednesday, her widowed husband Sam Vigil appeared at the White House and spoke eloquently of the tragedy that took his wife from him: "Every time I go to bed, every time I go onto the driveway, that memory comes back. It haunts me. My wife did not deserve to be killed that way." He thanked President Trump and said he was grateful for the federal government's help by sending thirty-five special agents to Albuquerque from FBI, DEA, ATF, U.S. Marshal's and Homeland Security to address violent crime in that city.


Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales was also present at the White House and had this to say about Operation LeGend being implemented in Albuquerque: "Today's announcement...speaks for itself, and the local FBI has also made it clear what Operation LeGend special agents will do: combat Albuquerque's out of control crime crisis and solve homicides."


The President also granted Justice Department funds of $1.5 million to the BCSO for the hiring of five deputies, and $9.7 million to the Albuquerque Police Department to pay for the hiring of 40 additional police officers.


Here is how New Mexico leadership responded:


Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham: "If the Trump administration wishes to antagonize New Mexicans and Americans with authoritarian, unnecessary, and unaccountable military-style crackdowns, they have no business whatsoever in New Mexico."


Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller: "If this was anything more than a political stunt, the president would support constitutional crime-fighting efforts that work for our community, not turning Albuquerque into a federal police state." He also said, "...we won't sell out our city for a bait and switch excuse to send secret police to Albuquerque. Operation LeGend is not real crime fighting. It is politics standing in the way of police work and makes us less safe."


U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich: "Instead of collaborating with the Albuquerque Police Department, the Sheriff (Gonzales) is inviting the President's stormtroopers into Albuquerque." He called for the Sheriff's resignation.


Attorney General Hector Balderas: "It is very disturbing that public safety operations would be politicized to score cheap points...we will actively monitor this situation to ensure there are no civil rights violations in our community."


U.S. Senator Tom Udall: "New Mexico leaders...should not tolerate the use of federal forces in our state for political purposes or in ways that cause mayhem and violate New Mexicans constitutional rights."


U.S. Representative Ben Ray Lujan: "...if his (Trump's) intent is to recreate the scenes out of Portland--with anonymous federal agents rounding up residents in unmarked vehicles--I will do everything I can as a member of Congress to hold him accountable."


Peter Simonson, New Mexico ACLU Executive Director: "Rather than investing in our community's safety with commonsense reforms to improve transparency, accountability, and training for his deputies, Sheriff Gonzales is actively working with the Trump administration to bring militarized federal police to our neighborhoods."


Wow.


Here is my response, and I base it on 22 years as a police officer responding to homicides while serving in the capacity of patrolman, detective, detective sergeant, patrol sergeant, shift commander, and deputy chief: "Thank you, Mr. President."


In my years of policing, I practiced a very simple rule of thumb: Never say no to free help.


If anyone, from any agency, stopped by a crime scene and offered to assist, I would thank them and find something that allowed them to make a contribution. Especially if it was murder. And especially if those offering to help were federal agents. The feds have access to databases that local law enforcement does not, and can get stuff done on a national level in a matter of minutes versus local cops having to go through official channels and burning up valuable time.


I'm not Republican or Democrat. I am a registered Independent. The responses listed above all came from Democrats, which includes Sheriff Gonzales. But the difference between the Sheriff and the political hacks running their mouths is that he recognizes that victims of violent crime are the priority, not the petty political aspirations of self-centered, self-serving politicians who blindly follow the party narrative and then pat each other on the back for maintaining the status quo. Thanks, Sheriff Gonzales, for having some backbone and showing some leadership. Glad to see somebody is wearing their big boy pants.


As always, Semper Fi!


(Operation LeGend is named after LeGend Taliferro, a four-year-old Kansas City, MO, boy who was murdered in a drive-by shooting).

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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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