Weekend News Roundup: Wildfire Near Silver City At 60 Percent Containment

May 17, 2014

Wildfire Near Silver City At 60 Percent Containment - The Associated Press

Crews have containment lines around 60 percent of a southwestern New Mexico wildfire as they go up against dry and windy conditions.

Fire managers said Sunday an "initial attack crew" is on standby in case hot spots flare up inside the 9-square-mile Signal Fire burning in the Gila National Forest.

They say high winds and dryness make the scenario extremely likely.

Authorities say the fire did not grow overnight and crews continue to work around the perimeter to ensure it doesn't spread.

They say rising temperatures will make the next few days a critical period for fire activity.

More than 700 firefighters and other personnel are assigned to the fire. Aircraft also are on hand to drop retardant and water on the fire.

The human-caused fire started burning in rugged terrain about 10 miles north of Silver City on May 11.

Forest Service Reviews Taos Ski Valley Raid - The Albuquerque Journal, The Associated Press

A U.S. Forest Service report is promising better communication with Taos Ski Valley after a federal drug raid left visitors and employees outraged.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the agency released a review Thursday, saying officers should have considered the impression created by bringing a muzzled police canine into a crowded ski lodge.

Authorities say four armed Taos Forest Service officers and a dog conducted a raid Feb. 22 in Taos Ski Valley's parking area and nearby roads.

Officials say the area was especially busy with a breast-cancer awareness fundraiser and a teen athletic competition.

Lodge operators say the raid had a negative impact on the ski area's image and questioned the tone and demeanor of officers.

The officers, however, say they found 13 violations including speeding and marijuana possession.

Los Alamos Container Linked To WIPP Leak - The Associated Press

Federal officials say a radiation leak at the government's troubled nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico has been linked to waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Officials Friday said pictures from the latest entry into the half-mile deep Waste Isolation Pilot Project confirm that a container from Los Alamos has a cracked lid and evidence of heat damage.

Officials last week said the leak was likely caused by a chemical reaction in nuclear waste that was mixed with nitrate salt. Among the possibilities that officials have since confirmed are being studied: a switch in the type of kitty litter used to absorb moisture before the containers are sealed and shipped to WIPP.

The repository has been shuttered since the mysterious release on Feb. 14 contaminated 22 workers with low levels or radiation.

Autopsy: Woman Shot By Albuquerque Police On Meth - The Associated Press

An autopsy report says a 19-year-old woman suspected of stealing a truck and who was shot and killed by Albuquerque police had a high concentration of methamphetamine in her system.

The Office of the Medical Investigator released the report Friday and ruled that Mary Hawkes died from three gunshot wounds to the head, neck and chest. The report says all three bullets were fired left to right and downward during the April 21 shooting.

A toxicology report showed that Hawkes also had meth in her body when she died.

Police have been unable to recover video footage from an officer's body camera of the shooting.

Critics say the lack of information is causing more distrust of Albuquerque police amid 39 police shootings since 2010 and pending U.S. Justice Department reforms.

Boy Pleads No Contest To Roswell School Shooting - The Associated Press

A 12-year-old boy accused of opening fire in a Roswell middle school gym has pleaded no contest to charges stemming from the shooting that injured two students.

Attorneys for the boy read a statement in court Friday saying he takes full responsibility for the shooting and apologizing to the victims' families.

Roswell police said the boy took a modified shotgun to Berrendo Middle School on Jan. 14 and opened fire on students as they waited for classes to begin. A 12-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl were injured.

The boy was charged with three counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and one count of carrying a firearm on school premises.

Sentencing is set for July 2. As a juvenile, he faces possible detention until he's 21 years old.

Navajo Nation President Files For Re-Election - The Associated Press

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly has filed for re-election, and he'll face his former boss in the race.

Shelly submitted his paperwork Friday at the election office in Window Rock, less than two weeks ahead of the deadline for candidates to file.

The primary election is set for Aug. 26. Voters will choose two candidates to move on to November's general election.

Shelly served 16 years on the Navajo Nation Council and as vice president under Joe Shirley Jr., who also is seeking the presidency. Shelly beat Lynda Lovejoy in the 2010 presidential election.

Shelly has chosen to keep Vice President Rex Lee Jim as his running mate. They're traveling to their hometowns of Thoreau, New Mexico, and Rock Point this weekend to discuss their campaigns.

Rural County, Feds Locked In Water Rights Dispute - Juan Carlos Llorca, Susan Montoya Bryan, The Associated Press

Leaders of a rural New Mexico county say they're frustrated that the U.S. Forest Service is refusing to back down from efforts to fence off water in southern New Mexico.

Otero County commissioners met Friday with forest officials and the U.S. attorney for the district of New Mexico in hopes of finding a solution to the dispute over access to a small spring-fed stream called Agua Chiquita.

The county believes the federal government is violating rancher's rights. The forest supervisor says he protecting fragile habitat.

Commissioner Ronny Rardin says the dispute is far from over, and County Sheriff Benny House says he will continue with an investigation to determine if the Forest Service is violating any state laws.

The county commission is also pushing for a congressional inquiry into the battle over water rights and access in the Lincoln National Forest.

More Details Released On Federal Marshal Shooting - The Associated Press

Authorities have identified the federal marshal who shot a man outside of Albuquerque during an arrest attempt.

The Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department said Friday that U.S. Marshal Sean Cozart fired two shots at 32-year-old Gilbert Angelo Serrano last month.

According to deputies, Serrano was tried to flee from agents when Cozart fired into his vehicle. Officials said Serrano suffered non-life-threatening injuries to his head and was transported to University of New Mexico Hospital. He was later taken into custody the same day.

Serrano was wanted on a probation violation and child abuse charges.

Authorities say the investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

Santa Fe Narrows Police Chief Search To 3 - The Associated Press

Three men have been named as finalists to become Santa Fe's next police chief.

The city announced Friday that Espanola Public Safety Director Eric Garcia, Santa Fe County Sheriff's deputy Randy Foester and former Albuquerque Police Department Deputy Chief Joseph Silva are the final candidates for the job.

Officials say they were chosen for nearly 50 candidates.

Former Police Chief Ray Rael retired in March.

Mayor Javier Gonzales and City Manager Brian Snyder are scheduled to interview the final candidates next week.

'Breaking Bad' Car Wash In Albuquerque Sold - The Associated Press

The Albuquerque car wash made famous in the hit TV series "Breaking Bad" has been sold.

Tucson, Ariz.-based Mister Car Wash announced Thursday it was buying all six Albuquerque locations of Octopus Car Wash, including the one that regularly appeared in the hit AMC show.

Octopus CEO Joel Jurkens said signs will change in a few months.

His father, John Jurkens, opened his first Octopus Car Wash in 1953 in Illinois. The family purchased the Albuquerque locations in 1967.

Breaking Bad," which ended last year and was filmed in Albuquerque, followed former high school teacher Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston. White produced methamphetamine with a former student, Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul.

The car wash, named A1A in the series, was used to launder drug money.

'Easy Rider' Festival Honors Dennis Hopper - The Associated Press

To celebrate the legacy of Dennis Hopper and his iconic counterculture film "Easy Rider," motorcyclists and movie fanatics from as far away as Canada have traveled to northern New Mexico.

They're gathering Saturday in the dusty, adobe encircled plaza at Ranchos de Taos to kick off what town officials hope will be an annual event — Dennis Hopper Day.

Saturday would have been the late actor's 78th birthday.

Hopper first came to New Mexico in the late 1960s to scout locations for "Easy Rider." Shot on a shoestring budget, the independent film summed up the 60s, romanticized the open road and ended up revolutionizing Hollywood.

The motorcyclists will be riding passed some of Hopper's old haunts, from the bridge that spans the Rio Grande Gorge to the historic Taos Pueblo.