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SAT: Ex-Police Officer accused of child sex crimes arrested in New Mexico, Water drop incident in New Mexico prompts investigation, + More

Kari Greer
Lolo National Forest Fires, 2017, Montana: Rice Ridge

Ex-Honolulu police officer accused of child sex crimesAssociated Press

A man has been arrested for sexually exploiting children while working as a Honolulu police officer, U.S. prosecutors alleged in an indictment.

Mason Jordan, 31, used a hidden camera to record sexually explicit videos of a child and then impersonated that child on social media to recruit other children to work for him as underage prostitutes, according to the indictment.

Jordan was arrested in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Thursday on charges of sexual exploitation of a child, coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in prostitution, sex trafficking of a child and cyberstalking.

It's not clear who his attorney is.

Prosecutors also accuse Jordan of cyberstalking a woman he met while he was a police officer. He threatened to circulate nude photos taken of her as a child to her family, co-workers and friends if she didn't send him new nude photographs, prosecutors said.

"Jordan has been a hands-on sexual offender of multiple children for over nearly half a decade," prosecutors said in a motion Friday asking that he be detained without bail.

"His crimes were not opportunistic. Rather, they were part of a years-long premeditated scheme to gain access to, and the trust of, extremely vulnerable children so that he could assault them," the motion said.

According to the Honolulu Police Department, Jordan was hired in November 2013, and resigned in March 2021.

The crimes allegedly took place between 2016 and 2020.

Water drop on fire crew in New Mexico prompts investigationAssociated Press

Federal authorities confirmed Friday they are investigating how three firefighters battling the largest blaze burning in the U.S. were injured — one of them seriously — when a helicopter dropped part of a load of water on them.

It happened last weekend in northern New Mexico as a team of firefighters was working along the fire's perimeter. They were among the more than 3,000 people assigned to the fire, which has been burning for nearly two months.

An initial report from the Bureau of Land Management stated that the hotshot crew was holding a section of fire line around 10:30 a.m. in the Pecos Wilderness last Sunday as helicopters dropped water on the fire's edge.

"When a helicopter missed the identified drop area, the last of the load was delivered on top of several crew members," the report states.

Two received minor injuries and the third underwent several surgeries at an Albuquerque hospital to repair skull fractures and a broken kneecap.

The Bureau of Land Management confirmed Friday that an investigation was underway but declined to release any other information.

The blaze was the result of two government planned burns aimed at clearing the forest of overgrown and dead vegetation. It destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands of people to evacuate from numerous rural villages in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains east of Santa Fe.

President Joe Biden issued a disaster declaration last month and plans to visit the state next week, but the fire still has fueled much criticism from residents and top elected officials in New Mexico.

The U.S. Forest Service vowed to conduct its own investigation and has since halted prescribed fire operations on all national forest lands while the agency conducts a review of protocols, decision-making tools and practices ahead of planned operations this fall.

U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández on Friday called for an independent investigation by the Government Accountability Office of the process used when conducting prescribed fires. She said she's hopeful that recommendations will be made to improve community involvement when it comes to forest management.

Leger Fernández said she wants to ensure that no other community in the U.S. suffers the destruction that her constituents have seen.

"Clearly, (the U.S. Forest Service) needs to enact substantive reforms to ensure accountability and restore trust in their use of prescribed burns to protect our forests," she said in a statement.

Government watchdog seeks investigation into contract involving tribal jail deathsBy Madelyn Bec, Boise State Public Radio News

A federal contract to review deaths at tribal jails went to a firm led by the person who oversaw those jails when some of the deaths occurred.

Now, nonprofit watchdog Project on Government Oversight (POGO) is calling on the Interior Department’s Inspector General to investigate that contract, awarded to a consulting firm led by Darren Cruzan.

A few months after retiring from Interior in May 2021, Cruzan’s private firm was hired to review 16 the deaths at jails overseen by the Interior Department's Bureau of Indian Affairs. Six of them happened while Cruzan had oversight of the facilities.

“It’s really hard to see how Mr. Cruzan can provide impartial assistance, and his company can, when he was at the Department of Interior, and involved with the Bureau of Indian Affairs,” said Scott Amey, general counsel for POGO.

In a letter to Mark Greenblatt, Interior’s inspector general, the group argues that Cruzan’s work as a contractor could violate post-government employment laws.

“Federal contracting regulations clearly state that the general rule for government business ‘is to avoid strictly any conflict of interest or even the appearance of a conflict of interest in Government-contractor relationships,’” the letter says.

POGO also argues Cruzan may have violated a law regarding conflicts of interest after being a government employee.

Even if an investigation doesn’t find Cruzan violated specific rules, Amey said it should suggest systemic changes.

“I would hope that the IG would still come out with some kind of recommendation saying, ‘Well this certainly isn’t a best practice, this should be avoided, and here are the rules and regulations and things that should be implemented to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future,’” he said.

Cruzan’s firm did not respond for comment. In previous stories, the firm has said it won the $83,000 contract fairly.

Some Congressman have been critical of the contract with Cruzan, though concrete steps haven’t been announced to investigate it.

An NPR and Mountain West News Bureau investigation into death and neglect at tribal jails prompted federal calls to review those deaths. Later, after reviewing Cruzan’s report on some of the deaths, the Bureau of Indian Affairs announced reforms to its tribal jails.

The reforms included more training surrounding in-custody death investigations. But they did not include harsher penalties for misconduct by jail employees or more medical personnel in tribal jails.

Report: BLM’s policy violations contributed to outbreak that killed 145 wild horses in ColoradoBy Kaleb Roedel, KUNR Public Radio

According to the report, compiled by BLM officials and a veterinarian with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the BLM failed to vaccinate horses in a timely manner at its facility in Cañon City, Colorado, which held more than 2,500 animals at the time of the disease outbreak in April. Many horses hadn’t been vaccinated at all, despite being held there since last summer.

The report also found that the facility was significantly understaffed.

Scott Wilson of the American Wild Horse Campaign, a group that advocates for free-roaming wild horses and burros on Western public lands, says the deaths should not be viewed as an isolated incident.

“You can’t keep piling wild horses into a broken system,” Wilson said. “Clearly, they’re safer in the wild. The BLM report kind of adds up – in my assessment – to overcrowding an inadequate system.”

The BLM also launched a broader, interagency review of the events surrounding the outbreak, which will be detailed in another report.

“This review will allow us to better understand management factors that may have contributed to this outbreak so we can better understand how to avoid another outbreak,” BLM Colorado Acting State Director Stephanie Connolly said in a statement.

The BLM holds roughly 58,000 wild horses across the West. About 64,000 are roaming free, more than half of which are in Nevada.

Florida man killed in Colorado avalanche identifiedAssociated Press

Authorities have released the name of a man who was killed in a rock fall and avalanche that also injured two other climbers at Rocky Mountain National Park.

The Boulder County coroner's office identified the victim Friday as 25-year-old Christopher Clark, of Land O' Lakes, Florida.

Two New Mexico climbers were injured in Sunday's avalanche. Michael Grieg, 27, of Albuquerque was airlifted by helicopter and hospitalized at Medical Center of the Rockies. Lillian Martinez, 24, of Albuquerque, suffered minor injuries.

A helicopter crew on Tuesday lifted Clark's body from the avalanche zone on Mount Meeker, where rescuers worked in winter conditions in terrain above 11,500 feet (3,505 meters) at the site near Dreamweaver Couloir. Climbers in the area witnessed the slide.