THURS: Oñate monument shooter delays sentencing to November, + More
Oñate monument shooter delays sentencing to November - Austin Fisher, Source New Mexico
The 2020 Oñate monument shooter will get to experience at least one more New Mexico autumn before he faces any accountability from the criminal legal system.
Video taken on June 15, 2020 shows Steven Ray Baca pushing a woman from behind to the ground, injuring her legs; macing a man in the face; pushing a second woman to the ground, injuring her head; and finally shooting a second man four times in the back at close range with a .40-caliber handgun.
The shooting ended a protest on that day at the statue called La Jornada that depicts Spanish colonizer Juan de Oñate called across from Tiguex Park in Albuquerque’s Old Town neighborhood.
Baca, 34, was supposed to appear in court in downtown Albuquerque on Wednesday to receive his sentence from Second Judicial District Judge Brett Loveless. The judge could have put him in prison for almost two years, the maximum sentence under the plea deal Baca made in June 2023.
Over the long Labor Day weekend, Baca’s attorneys managed to convince Loveless to delay the sentencing hearing until Nov. 1.
Through his attorneys Jason Bowles and Diego Esquibel, Baca on Sunday asked the court to push the hearing back.
His defense team wrote that it had not received a “probation report,” and he “needs additional time to gather additional character letters.”
David Foster, the special prosecutor assigned to the case by Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman, took no position on Baca’s request.
Citing Foster’s lack of a position, Judge Loveless on Monday granted Baca’s request.
Baca has a pending plea deal with Foster which could result in probation, or land him in prison for two years minus one day.
His plea agreement dropped the charge of aggravated battery causing great bodily harm for the shooting. He pleaded no contest to aggravated battery, and pleaded guilty to battery and unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon.
Source New Mexico’s National Editor Marisa Demarco did not assign, discuss or edit this story due to a conflict-of-interest concern.
Police say shooting that killed 11-year-old was road-rage – Santa Fe New Mexican, KUNM News
A shooting near Isotopes Park Wednesday night left an 11-year-old child dead and a woman in her early 20s injured.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports authorities believe the shooting happened during a road-rage altercation over a maneuver like an improper U-turn.
Police say around 9 p.m. a truck was sprayed by 17 shots and officers nearby responded to the gunfire.
The child died on scene and the woman is in critical condition at the hospital. The names of the victims have not yet been released.
Chief Harold Medina said in a press conference Thursday that it was the fifth fatal road-rage shooting Albuquerque has seen.
Attorney General joins letter urging Congress to study how AI is used in child exploitation – New Mexico Political Report
New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez cosigned a letter to Congress this week urging lawmakers to look into artificial intelligence’s uses in child exploitation.
According to New Mexico Political Report, the letter came from the National Association of Attorneys General. Torrez said in a news release that it’s up to state and federal leaders to place protections around AI and ensure the digital world is a safe space for children.
The letter asks Congress to study how AI is used to exploit children through the generation of child sex abuse material and to propose solutions.
The AGs point out that AI has broadened the capabilities of those who make child sex abuse material. They can digitally place images of real children who have not been abused into depictions of abuse. They can use images of previously abused children in other images and the can digitally create images of abuse for children who do not exist.
The letter ads that child exploitation using AI is underreported and understudied.
State’s emergency department director resigns, NM National Guard moves in, letter says - By Patrick Lohmann and Megan Gleason,Source New Mexico
The secretary for the state’s emergency management department told staff this week that he is resigning and that the general for the New Mexico National Guard will soon oversee the department, according to a letter written by the outgoing secretary and obtained by Source New Mexico.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham appointed David Dye as secretary of the state’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management on May 16, 2022, when wildfires were burning throughout the state. He was previously at the emergency management office for Santa Fe County.
Dye, in his resignation letter, praised the staff for their work managing multiple disasters over the last year or so.
“Particularly in the last 16 months, the DHSEM team has really come together and solved very complicated and serious problems,” he wrote in the letter. “In the near term, General (Miguel) Aguilar, the leader of the New Mexico National Guard, will begin his transition to oversee DHSEM as well and I expect you will all welcome him as well, or better, than you welcomed me.”
Lujan Grisham said in a statement sent to Source NM Wednesday afternoon that Aguilar is the right person for this job and she has full confidence in his ability to lead.
“My direction to General Aguilar is clear: DHSEM needs to be focused squarely on assisting New Mexicans affected by emergencies,” Lujan Grisham said.
She said the disaster agency needs to ensure that “state resources are getting out as quickly as possible” to victims of the state’s largest recorded wildfire, the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire that was started by the U.S. Forest Service last year.
The governor’s office and DHSEM did not provide additional details Wednesday, though a DHSEM spokesperson said Aguilar would become secretary of the department in an acting or interim role for now. A National Guard spokesperson told Source NM that an announcement was expected by the governor’s office this afternoon.
It’s not clear from Dye’s letter exactly what role the National Guard will play in overseeing the agency or the state’s response to disasters. In addition to Agular’s appointment, Dye wrote to staff that more National Guardsmen will be in the office.
“You can expect to see a few more National Guardsmen in the building as the two staffs begin to work closely together,” Dye wrote. “This may be a trying time for DHSEM with all the changes that have occurred, but I know you all can rise to the occasion.”
It’s not unprecedented for state National Guards to merge with emergency management departments. The Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, for example, includes the Arizona National Guard.
Dye wrote that he was leaving DHSEM and state government, and his expected last day is Sept. 15. He wrote that he was leaving the agency “with a heavy heart.”
The announcement comes as the state continues to deal with the fallout of a major year for wildfires, as well as post-fire flooding that continues to damage property and land in burn scars across the state.
Last year, the two biggest wildfires in New Mexico history destroyed more than 640,000 acres. Following the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire, DHSEM has played key roles in hiring case managers for wildfire victims who are seeking compensation for their losses, as well as seeking additional federal funding to help the area recover and administering state emergency loans to disaster areas.
As the state’s emergency response agency, DHSEM helps prepare for and respond to disasters like floods, fires and health crises, plus regional and national threats. It can step in when local governments are overwhelmed by a disaster and serves as the conduit for federal assistance for mitigation, response and recovery grants. The agency also includes the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
The New Mexico National Guard is the state’s militia, made up of the Army and Air National Guard, responsible for aiding in local and federal emergencies when called upon by the state governor or U.S. president.
Aguilar is the Adjutant General for New Mexico’s National Guard, which means he serves as military adviser to the governor and mobilizes airmen and soldiers. He was born in Dexter, N.M. and attended the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell before a career in the military and with the New Mexico State Police.
Dye has 10 years of experience in military emergency management, according to his biography on the DHSEM website. He has nearly 30 years of experience in homeland security as an officer in the military, as well. His letter to staff did not say what he plans to do next.
NM governor wants $30M for a literary institute - Albuquerque Journal, KUNM News
After seeing a slight boost in reading proficiency among school-aged youth, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham plans to ask state legislators for $30 million to build a literacy institute during the upcoming legislative session in January.
As the Albuquerque Journal reports, in the 2021-2022 school year, New Mexico third through eighth graders were about 34% proficient in English language arts. A following preliminary report is expected to see that rate boost up to 38.4%.
It’s an attempt to make up for New Mexico’s historically poor reading scores.
This comes after the governor visited Kansas last month to see a literacy institute. The hope was to inform how New Mexico can adopt similar models and bring them back to the Southwest.
According to the Journal, lawmakers in the last legislative session set aside $13.5 million for early literacy and reading support and another $8 million for structured literacy efforts in both districts and charter schools.
Suspect wanted in 2019 ambush that killed 9 American citizens is arrested in New Mexico - Associated Press
A man wanted in connection with an ambush that killed nine American citizens in northern Mexico nearly four years ago has been arrested in New Mexico, federal authorities said Wednesday.
The U.S. Marshals Service said Ivan Gustavo Hernandez-Cabral, 24, was taken into custody Monday in Albuquerque after the agency acted on a tip. Details of the arrest haven't been released.
Marshal Service officials said Hernandez-Cabral was being held pending extradition to Mexico in connection with the Nov. 4, 2019, ambush that left three women and six children dead on a road in Sonora.
Five children survived the shooting, which authorities said happened when cartel gunmen opened fire on three vehicles full of women and children who had dual citizenship and lived in the area.
The Mormon group was headed to a wedding, and authorities said some of the victims were burned alive.
Mexican prosecutors said about 20 suspects were arrested in the case by February 2021, and more warrants remain outstanding.
Hernandez-Cabral also is awaiting a hearing on an illegal entry charge in federal court in Albuquerque, the Marshals Service said.
The U.S. Border Patrol caught Hernandez-Cabral in July after he illegally crossed the border near Columbus, New Mexico, according to the Marshals Service.
A call to Hernandez-Cabral's lawyer — Carlos Ibarra of Las Cruces — seeking comment on his client's cases wasn't immediately returned Wednesday.
A judge orders Texas to move a floating barrier that's used to deter migrants between US and Mexico - By Paul J. Weber Associated Press
Texas must move a large floating barrier that Gov. Greg Abbott placed on the river between the U.S. and Mexico this summer as part of the Republican's escalating attempts to stop migrants from crossing America's southern border, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge David Ezra stopped short of ordering Texas to dismantle the wrecking-ball sized buoys on the Rio Grande but called them a threat to safety and relationships between the neighboring countries. His preliminary injunction instructs Texas, for now, to move the barrier out of the water and onto the riverbank by Sept. 15.
Ezra also cast doubt on Texas' rationale for the barrier, writing that the state produced no "credible evidence that the buoy barrier as installed has significantly curtailed illegal immigration."
The lawsuit was brought by the Justice Department in a rare instance of President Joe Biden's administration going to court to challenge Texas' border policies.
Texas officials said they would appeal.
"Today's court decision merely prolongs President Biden's willful refusal to acknowledge that Texas is rightfully stepping up to do the job that he should have been doing all along," Abbott said.
Abbott invoked "invasion" powers to deploy aggressive new tactics starting last year. Texas' use of dozens of bright orange buoys to create a barrier longer than a soccer field on a stretch of river where migrants often try crossing from Mexico is just one piece of his multibillion-dollar border mission known as Operation Lone Star. The state has also installed razor-wire fencing along the river and allowed troopers to arrest migrants on trespassing charges, among other things.
Ezra, an appointee of former President Ronald Reagan, rejected Abbott's justification for all of Texas' actions.
"Under this logic, once Texas decides, in its sole discretion, that it has been invaded, it is subject to no oversight of its 'chosen means of waging war,'" Ezra wrote. "Such a claim is breathtaking."
In challenging Texas' use of the buoys, the U.S. Justice Department accused the state of putting a barrier on the international boundary without permission. The Biden administration also said the water barrier raised humanitarian and environmental concerns.
"We are pleased that the court ruled that the barrier was unlawful and irreparably harms diplomatic relations, public safety, navigation, and the operations of federal agency officials in and around the Rio Grande," Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a statement.
Texas installed the barrier near the border town of Eagle Pass by putting anchors in the riverbed. Eagle Pass is part of a Border Patrol sector that has seen the second-highest number of migrant crossings this fiscal year with about 270,000 encounters — though that is lower than it was at this time last year.
The Biden administration has said illegal border crossings declined after new immigration rules took effect in May as pandemic-related asylum restrictions expired.
Like other pieces of Operation Lone Star, the buoys pick up where former President Donald Trump left off. Plans for the same water barrier were in the pipeline in 2020, according to Mark Morgan, who at the time was the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Morgan said the plans were scrapped after Biden took office. He called the barrier a "water wall" and said it was intended to be used as a stopgap in sections of the border where fences were not yet built or were impractical.