Experts Say NM Police Did Not Alter Video, NM County Could Lose Millions With Proposed Food Tax

May 18, 2017

Expert Says New Mexico Police Did Not Alter Shooting Videos – Associated Press & The Albuquerque Journal

A police expert said video evidence from a fatal New Mexico police shooting investigation case was not tampered with.

The Albuquerque Journal reported yesterday that it had obtained from the city the January report by video evidence expert and former law enforcement officer Grant Fredericks.

The report is part of the ongoing investigation in Mary Hawkes' 2014 shooting. Former APD officer Jeremy Dear has said he shot the 19-year-old after she pointed a gun at him. Fredericks' report supports Dear's claim.

The Journal reported Friday that another expert and former police officer working for Hawkes' family, Kevin Angell, suspected that the video evidence had been altered. Angell noted in his sworn affidavit that video titles began with "clip," which is how the website Evidence.com, where the videos were uploaded, identifies altered videos.

Fredericks' report acknowledges that the videos are titled as "clips," but insists that the videos filed as evidence are the original recordings as shown by video data.

City officials have said that all relevant video footage has been made public and that the video analysis shows that the shooting was justified.

New Mexico County Could Lose Millions With Proposed Food Tax – Associated Press & The Daily Times

New Mexico county officials say an upcoming special session could cause it to lose millions of dollars.

The Daily Times reported  yesterday that San Juan County Commission Chairman Jack Fortner thinks New Mexico special session could force the recently approved budget to change. Legislators at next week's special session will discuss the so-called "hold harmless payments," which are given to local governments in the place of food tax revenue.

Gov. Susana Martinez has considered bringing back a food tax. The move would get rid of hold harmless payments.

County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter said Tuesday that the county could lose $2 million if the move goes through. He says there is a plan in the works to prepare for the proposed tax.

Planned Parenthood To Close 3 Clinics In Northern New Mexico – Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains plans to close three clinics in northern New Mexico.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the closures in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho and Farmington are part of a larger consolidation effort to keep the organization solvent.

However, Planned Parenthood could face even more financial pressure as a result of proposals pending in Congress.

The closures will likely happen in September and would leave Planned Parenthood with two clinics in Albuquerque and one in Santa Fe.

Planned Parenthood officials say about 1,400 patients in Farmington and 1,800 in Rio Rancho may have to transfer to another provider in their community or travel farther to find a Planned Parenthood site.

Funding For Lottery Scholarships Lags By Nearly $8M – Associated Press

As New Mexico's higher education officials near a deadline for deciding whether to roll back scholarship assistance for tens of thousands of college students, lottery officials said today they're transferring less money into the fund that supports the program.

Transfers of lottery proceeds through April are lagging by nearly $8 million compared to the same time last year, and projections show the overall return to the scholarship fund by the end of this fiscal year is expected to fall short of last year's levels by about $9 million.

New Mexico has struggled in recent years to find a solution to solvency problems with the program. Legislators during their regular session did not pass any measures that would affect the program's long-term bottom line, leaving state higher education officials to sort out how to stretch the funding.

Some have warned that the scholarships might only pay 70 percent of tuition starting next fall. State officials are still crunching the numbers and it will likely be next month before any decisions are made.

Officials with the state Higher Education Department did not immediately return messages seeking comment Thursday.

Santa Fe School District To Save $1.6M In New Budget – Associated Press

The Santa Fe school district is cutting about a dozen jobs and consolidating some high school programs in its recently approved budget.

The Santa Fe Public Schools board approved the new $185.2 million operating budget Tuesday in a 4-1 vote. The district approved the budget before New Mexico lawmakers have settled on a budget for state government. The district is cutting back on administration, school site budgets, special needs education and alternative high school programs to save about $1.6 million.

Officials have not said which jobs will be eliminated.

Chief Financial Officer Carl Gruenler says the school sites and special education reductions are in line with a decrease in enrollment.

The school district needs to submit its budget to the state Public Education Department for approval by the end of the month.

Editor's Note: A grammatical error in this story was corrected to clarify the number of proposed job cuts. 

New Mexico Mosquitoes Capable Of Transmitting The Zika VirusAssociated Press

State health officials say mosquitoes capable of transmitting the Zika virus have been found in Doña Ana County.

The New Mexico Department of Health says it's the first time this season that the mosquito species has been found in that part of the state.

Mosquito surveillance in New Mexico's southern counties is part of an ongoing joint project to map the range and distribution of the species that can transmit the Zika virus.

Zika virus can be transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito.

The mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus.

Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites.

Ten cases of Zika virus disease were reported in New Mexico last year.

Cash-Strapped New Mexico May Overhaul Savings StrategyAssociated Press

New Mexico policy makers are looking for ways to restore full faith in the state's credit as they negotiate a solution to a budget crisis.

Lawmakers on Thursday were studying new strategies for rebuilding state financial reserves that do not involve abrupt spending cuts or tax increases.

The state's dwindling rainy-day funds are on the agenda for next week's session, in efforts to protect the state's credit rating and keep borrowing costs affordable for local construction projects.

As recently as 2015, New Mexico had $712 million socked away in the event of a downturn in its oil-infused economy. Now the money is mostly gone.

Experts in state government finance at the Pew Charitable Trusts say consistent planning can restore confidence among ratings agencies and investors.

Winter-Like Weather To Return Briefly To Parts Of New MexicoAssociated Press

Much of New Mexico will be getting another dose of winter-like weather.

National Weather Service forecasters say many locations in northern and western New Mexico will have freezing or near-freezing temperatures Thursday night and Friday morning thanks to a cold front pushing into the state.

The front will enter the state in the northwest and slowly move eastward, with rain in higher elevations and snow in the north.

Chama and Red River are each expected to get up to an inch of snow.

Rate Hike And Fluoridation Pass Water Authority BoardAlbuquerque Journal

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority board approved a rate hike and adding fluoride to water supplies in a meeting Wednesday night.

The Albuquerque Journal reported the first vote on the rate hike was a tie, but a subsequent vote passed after one of the opponents, County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, left the meeting.

The rate hike was pre-approved in 2015 and was awaiting final action by the board, so the initial tie vote came as a surprise. The higher rates will raise residential bills by about $33 annually per household. The funds will go towards upgrading aging infrastructure.

The fluoride proposal, which failed last year and has caused intense controversy, was part of an amendment introduced by Commissioner Wayne Johnson on an appropriations measure. It would supplement the naturally occurring fluoride levels of about 0.5 parts per million, raising that to 0.7 parts per million.

Supporters say it will boost oral health for all residents, but opponents question the safety and efficacy of added fluoridation. The Journal reports the move will add $260,000 to the cost of new facilities and $270,000 to operations and maintenance annual costs.

Albuquerque Added To Federal Effort To Fight Opioid Epidemic - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

Federal law enforcement officials have included Albuquerque in a program aimed at helping similar cities deal with the scourge of heroin and prescription drug addiction.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Wednesday said it will formally add Albuquerque as its seventh city selected to participate in the agency's 360 Strategy program.

Under the program, the DEA coordinates with local law enforcement agencies against drug cartels and traffickers. It also fosters community outreach and works to engage drug manufacturers in increasing awareness of the opioid epidemic.

The DEA first rolled out the 360 Strategy in November 2015 in Pittsburgh.

Last month, New Mexico became the first U.S. state to require all local and state law enforcement agencies to provide officers with antidote kits as the state works to curb deaths from opioid overdoses.

Girl Scouts Name New CEO: A Brownie Turned Rocket Scientist - By David Crary, AP National Writer

Sylvia Acevedo, who earned a science badge as a Girl Scout and later became a rocket scientist and entrepreneur, was appointed Wednesday as CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA. A top priority, she said, would be to stem a sharp decline in the organization's membership.

Acevedo had been serving as the interim CEO since last June while the GSUSA conducted an extensive search for a new permanent leader. In the end, the national board decided she was the best choice, depicting her as "a long-time champion for girls' and women's causes."

Acevedo grew up near Las Cruces, New Mexico, and joined a Brownie troop there in the 1960s. She says her mother got help from troop leaders in practicing her English and passing her U.S. citizenship test.

3 Wanted On Fraud Charges Arrested During SWAT SituationAssociated Press

Albuquerque police say three people sought in a fraud and identity-theft investigation were arrested during a SWAT situation that included a three-hour standoff involving one of the suspects.

Police identified the suspects arrested Tuesday on felony warrants as 39-year-old Shawn Torrez, 52-year-old Anthony Cordova and 42-year-old Christina Torrez. It was not clear whether they have attorneys who could comment on the allegations.

Police say Cordova and Christina Torrez were taken into custody right after police arrived at a home in search of the three but that Shawn Torrez retreated inside and refused to surrender until police used gas to force him out.

Police say Shawn Torrez shot and damaged a police robot sent to the residence's front door and also fired shots toward officers but that nobody was injured.

Peralta Man Dies After Crash With Los Lunas School VehicleAssociated Press

New Mexico State Police say a Peralta man is dead after car crash involving a Los Lunas school resource vehicle.

They say a Los Lunas Public School resource officer was trying to assist a Valencia County Sheriff's deputy on a call about 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Police say the unidentified resource officer was trying to pass a passenger vehicle in front of the patrol car and drove into the opposite lane of the two-lane roadway.

At the same time, the passenger car driven by 69-year-old Robin Arthur turned left into a private driveway.

Police say the resource officer's vehicle struck the passenger car along the driver's side door.

Arthur and the resource officer were taken to an Albuquerque hospital for treatment of injuries.

Police say Arthur died Wednesday afternoon.

New Mexico Highlands Donates Endangered Toads To US ZoosAssociated Press

Three zoos across the United States will be getting endangered boreal toads raised by students at New Mexico Highlands University as part of a nationwide effort to preserve the species.

School officials say the Detroit Zoo's National Amphibian Conservation Center, the Denver Zoo in Colorado and the Staten Island Zoo in New York are accepting the live toads.

The amphibians were raised from eggs in a biology lab at the northern New Mexico school.

Highlands biology professor Sarah Corey-Rivas says the toads are essential to mountain ecosystems and provide nourishment to other species. She says losing the toads makes it harder for ecosystems to recover from disturbances such as drought.

Corey-Rivas says the decline in boreal toads and other amphibians in North America is due to the chytrid fungal disease.