Seriously, Sun-News?

When you're a left-leaning, low-rent liberal rag, sometimes you have to take your stories from the lowest bidder. The Sun-News has succeeded in scraping the bottom of the barrel in today's news article regarding David Pedraza.


Pedraza said that he was arrested by Officer Chris Smelser in 2018 and he's lucky he didn't end up like Antonio Valenzuela. Valenzuela died in late February after being arrested by Smelser and struggling with officers. He ran from police following a traffic stop and fought when they caught up to him. He had a warrant for his arrest and was in possession of a multi-tool (an instrument with various types of tools, in addition to knife blades) and a bag of white crystalline powder. Smelser repeatedly warned Valenzuela to stop fighting or he would choke him out. When Valenzuela continued to violently resist arrest, Smelser applied a departmental-approved VNR (vascular neck restraint) and Valenzuela reportedly went limp and began snoring. He died shortly thereafter, despite the efforts of EMTs to save him. Autopsy showed cartilage damage to Valenzuela's throat, and that he had ingested amphetamine, methamphetamine and fentanyl, which were determined to be contributing factors in his death.


Now comes Pedraza, an obvious pillar of society with the outstanding credibility that goes hand-in-hand with felony convictions, who told the Sun-News that Smelser also put him in a chokehold during a 2018 arrest, but he was able to escape it. "...he was on parole (Valenzuela) and I was on parole, too," Pedraza told the Sun-News. "So that could have been me. If I'd had been a little weaker, I could have died, too. He was trying his hardest to choke me out."


Pedraza was a passenger in a motor vehicle pulled over by Smelser. Pedraza was searched and found to be in possession of black tar heroin. As Smelser tried to arrest him, Pedraza put the heroin in his mouth and attempted to swallow it.


If you are not familiar with black tar heroin, it has that name because it looks like black tar. It typically comes in a foil packet and generally smells of vinegar. If orally ingested, it could very likely be fatal. At this point, Smelser faced two realities: (1) Pedraza was attempting to destroy evidence by ingesting it, and (2) Pedraza would very likely die if he succeeded in ingesting the heroin. So Smelser put Pedraza in a VNR and subsequently the evidence was spit out. Police departments don't generally give out life-saving awards for this type of action, but in reality that's what it amounts to. I've been involved in those types of struggles. Sometimes, in police work, we have to save people from themselves.


Pedraza said that during this struggle he was slammed to the ground which resulted in a broken collarbone and a dislocated shoulder, but he was able to free himself from the chokehold. The Sun-News reporter never bothered to ask how he could have possibly freed himself from a chokehold with those injuries (I've had a separated shoulder OUCH!), but she (the reporter) does make sure to point out that in his booking photo, Pedraza had cuts and bruises to his face and his arm was in a sling. The reporter does not mention the jailhouse tattoos which are clearly visible on Pedraza's neck, but who knows, maybe he got those in Sunday school.


In the backseat of the vehicle, behind convicted felon Pedraza, was a tactical assault rifle. Both Pedraza and the driver denied ownership of the weapon but Pedraza was charged with felon in possession of a firearm. Also found in the vehicle were needles (I'm guessing hypodermic syringes) and scales. It is important to note the scales because those are used for weighing, which is a possible indicator of trafficking since drug dealers use them to weigh the product they are selling. Pedraza was not charged with trafficking.


After reading the article I was left with a pertinent question: What was the purpose of printing this garbage?


Other than being an obvious effort to slam Smelser, what journalistic value did it serve? To me, the real issue that should have been looked into was why the charges were dismissed by the DA's office. I could make an educated guess but I'm not going to speculate.


Think about this, too: didn't the reporter, or whoever approved this story, think just for a minute that perhaps Pedraza's motivation for revealing this information was to go fishing for an attorney in his proposed, but not yet filed, civil lawsuit? And who better to use to get the word out than the local newspaper with its circulation of tens of thousands.


You got played, Sun-News. And you're too naive to realize it.

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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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