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FRI: Governor amends order suspending right to carry firearms to focus on parks and playgrounds, + More

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday, Sept. 8, issued an emergency public health order that suspended the open and permitted concealed carry of firearms in Albuquerque for 30 days in the midst of a spate of gun violence. After a federal judge blocked that part of the order, the governor narrowed its scope to parks and playgrounds a week later, on Friday, Sept. 15.
Alex Brandon
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday, Sept. 8, issued an emergency public health order that suspended the open and permitted concealed carry of firearms in Albuquerque for 30 days in the midst of a spate of gun violence. After a federal judge blocked that part of the order, the governor narrowed its scope to parks and playgrounds a week later, on Friday, Sept. 15.

New Mexico governor amends order suspending right to carry firearms to focus on parks, playgrounds - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday narrowed an order that broadly suspended the right to carry firearms in and around Albuquerque to apply only to public parks and playgrounds where children and their families gather.

The governor's announcement came days after a federal judge blocked part of the order with criticism mounting over the Democratic governor's action and legal challenges by gun-rights advocates.

Gunfire and violent crime in Albuquerque have continued unabated in the week since Lujan Grisham issued the temporary public health order, she said at a press conference Friday, adding that she will continue to pursue a "framework that will pass legal muster" to rein in gun violence.

"Last night, we saw violent crime move through the city that resulted in a gun injury, two car hijackings and a kidnaping with suspects not yet in custody," said Lujan Grisham, appearing in Albuquerque alongside leading Democratic state legislators and her administration's secretary of public safety. "We have a very serious situation in our communities that requires serious, immediate results."

She said the temporary order "is amended to be focused now (on) no open or concealed carry in public parks or playgrounds, where we know we've got high risk of kids and families."

U.S. District Judge David Urias said Wednesday that the governor's original order was likely to cause irreparable harm to people deprived of the right to carry a gun in public for self-defense, granting a temporary restraining order to block the suspension of gun rights until another hearing is held in early October.

Earlier in the week, scores of demonstrators defiantly wore holstered handguns on their hips or carried rifles during a rally by gun-rights advocates.

The second-term governor imposed the emergency public health order Sept. 8 that suspended the right to openly carry or conceal guns in public places based on a statistical threshold for violent crime in Albuquerque and the surrounding area. She cited recent shootings around the state that left children dead, saying something needed to be done.

Republican lawmakers threatened impeachment proceedings and even some influential Democrats and civil rights leaders warned that the move could do more harm than good to overall efforts to ease gun violence.

State Attorney General Raúl Torrez announced he could not defend the 30-day prohibition against carrying firearms in and around Albuquerque, widening the divide between the state's top-ranked elected Democrats.

Lujan Grisham said Friday that legal proceedings affirmed her calls for urgent action to stem gun violence.

"There was no disagreement in that courtroom that gun violence is a problem," she said.

The local Catholic archbishop has been among the few joining longtime gun-control advocates in support of the order.

New Mexico is an open carry state, so the governor's order affects anyone in Bernalillo County who can legally own a gun, with some exceptions. Bernalillo is the state's most populous county and home to Albuquerque.

Pueblo leaders travel to Washington, DC, to reaffirm support for Chaco drilling ban - Alice Fordham, KUNM News

Representatives of the All Pueblo Council of Governors went to Washington, DC, this week to protest a proposed law that would reverse a freeze in drilling and mining around Chaco Canyon after efforts by Republican representatives from Arizona to roll back a rule passed earlier this year

In June this year, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced the withdrawal of public land from new oil and gas leasing and mining in a ten mile radius around Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

Chaco Canyon is revered as the center point of a civilization that flourished around 1,000 years ago, where ancestors of many of today's nations, tribes and pueblos lived.

But leaders and citizens of the Navajo Nation objected to the freeze, saying it made it harder for Navajo people with rights to some land in the area to sell mineral rights. They won the support of Republican Congressmen Eli Crane and Paul Gosar of Arizona, who introduced legislation that would overturn the new rule.

This week, representatives of the All Pueblo Council of Governors traveled to Washington, DC, to object to the proposed legislation, known as the Energy Opportunities for All Act.

Representatives of the pueblos of Tesuque, Acoma, Laguna, Jemez, Zia, and Zuni had meetings in the capital to reaffirm their support for the drilling freeze, and stress the cultural importance of Chaco.

In a statement, council Chairman Mark Mitchell said, "We have forged vital connections, shared our concerns, and echoed the heartbeat of the Greater Chaco Region through the halls of Congress.”

NM Gas seeks a rate increase that would add 11% to the average heating billSanta Fe New Mexican, KUNM News

The state’s largest gas utility is seeking a rate hike that would result in an 11% increase for the average residential customer.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports New Mexico Gas Co. released details on the requested hike this week that notes the average home heating bill would go up by about $6.70.

If the Public Regulation Commission approves the request, the new rates would take effect in October 2024.

New Mexico Gas, a subsidiary of Canada-based Emera Inc., serves about half a million customers in New Mexico. Its most recent rate increase took effect in January. The company’s new rate request indicates it wants to collect $49 million more annually.

The company says it has increasing costs related to operations and infrastructure improvements. The gas company is also looking to recover costs related to the ensuing rate cast and what it called increased bad debt during the pandemic.

It also has expenses related to studies for a liquefied natural gas project planned for Rio Rancho and for credit card fees.

Albuquerque splits Department of Family & Community services into two, addressing housing and youth separately - Alice Fordham, KUNM News

The City of Albuquerque is splitting the Department of Family & Community Services into two departments, in an effort to separately address big challenges around housing, and young people and families.

The new Health, Housing and Homelessness department will oversee homelessness programs, affordable housing and behavioral health.

New Mexico has seen an increase in the homeless population in the last year, according to a report in May by the Legislative Finance Committee.

The committee told lawmakers that preliminary estimates for 2023 indicated an uptick of about 48% in homelessness statewide, and that the supply of affordable rental units has declined by 50% since 2020.

Mayor Tim Keller has previously said the city is short 30,000 houses, and launched a program last year designed to create 5,000 more units by 2025. The new department will also oversee the Gateway Center, which offers shelter and help getting into housing, and is ramping up other health care.

The Youth & Family Service department will oversee things like youth programs and community centers and also a new Public Education Support division that consolidates all the city's APS-related support, like community schools partnerships and education-related philanthropy.

The overall budget for the two new departments will not increase.

Family files lawsuit after police fatally shot New Mexico man while at wrong address - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

The family of a man shot and killed by police in northwestern New Mexico after they responded to the wrong address is suing the city of Farmington and three officers.

The lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court alleges Robert Dotson and his family were deprived of their civil rights when the officers mistakenly showed up at their home the night of April 5. The officers responded to the wrong address after getting a domestic violence call from a home across the street.

The lawsuit contends the officers acted unreasonably that night and created a risk for Dotson and his family. The 52-year-old and his wife were upstairs when they heard what they believed was a knock. Dotson put his robe on, went downstairs and grabbed his handgun from the top of the refrigerator, given the hour and not knowing what he would find, the lawsuit states.

Neither Dotson nor his wife looked at footage from their front door Ring camera before he went down, according to Tom Clark, one of the family's attorneys.

Video from the camera system at the front door showed the officers backing away, their flashlights trained on the door as Dotson opened it. Gunfire erupted, with the officers shooting Dotson 12 times.

"Their extreme, unreasonable actions demonstrate an utter and reckless disregard and conscious indifference for the rights of plaintiffs and the life of Robert Dotson," the complaint states.

At the time, the police chief called the shooting tragic and vowed his agency would cooperate with New Mexico State Police investigators. That investigation is complete and is being reviewed by the state attorney general's office.

Luis Robles, an attorney who represents the officers, reiterated the chief's sentiments in an interview with The Associated Press.

"They all wish it didn't happen, and yet it did. And that's what's tragic about it. It didn't have to happen," he said.

Robles explained that the lead officer was using the computer-aided dispatch terminal in his patrol vehicle to find the home, and the mapping system placed the pin on the Dotsons' home rather than the residence where the call originated.

Body camera footage released by Farmington police following the shooting showed that officers walked past the address that was illuminated by an exterior light at the home as they approached the door. The officers knocked and announced themselves.

While knocking twice more, the officers can be heard asking a dispatcher to confirm the address and to tell the caller to come to the door. The dispatcher states the address of a home across the street and the officers begin to realize they were in the wrong place.

The video released by police showed a chaotic scene erupting about four minutes after officers first arrived.

According to the lawsuit, Dotson was blinded by the officers' flashlights when he opened the door.

The lawsuit states that Dotson's wife, wearing only a robe, came downstairs after hearing the shots and found her husband lying in the doorway. She fired outside, not knowing who was out there. Police fired back, each of their 19 rounds missing the woman.

Once the gunfire stopped, sirens could be heard blaring as more officers arrived. Dotson's wife could be heard pleading for help, saying someone had shot her husband.

Lawyers for the Dotson family said in the complaint that Farmington police handcuffed the woman and her two children and took them to the station for questioning rather than acknowledging their error. They contend that the officers involved did not initially disclose that they were at the wrong address.

While Robles acknowledged the officers' mistake, he disagreed that their reliance on technology amounted to reckless disregard.

"I think that's fundamentally the misconception about the tragedy," he said. "It is tragic that the officers showed up at the wrong house. It's equally tragic that Mr. Dotson believed that he could point a gun at someone because they were knocking at his door at night."

Lawyers for the family have questioned training and oversight within the Farmington Police Department when it comes to the use of force. The complaint suggests damages should be awarded so that other cities and police departments are deterred from such conduct.

Puppy in New Mexico tests positive for rabies in state's 1st case in a dog in 10 years - Associated Press

New Mexico has its first reported case of a dog with rabies in a decade, state health officials said Friday.

A puppy in Bernalillo County is confirmed to have rabies, the New Mexico Department of Health said in a news release. The animal showed textbook symptoms, including a lack of coordination, tremors and aggression. The puppy was euthanized.

Officials say the last case of rabies in a dog recorded in New Mexico was in 2013. It's also the first incidence of rabies in the state's most populous county since 2006.

The health department suspects the puppy contracted it in Texas before recently arriving in New Mexico. The dog was not yet old enough to receive vaccines.

Officials believe there is no danger to the public. Six people were exposed to the pup and have since been getting rabies shots as a precaution. Pets that were exposed are up to date on their vaccines, the Department of Health added.

Baby found dead in Hobbs hospital bathroom where teen was being treated - Associated Press

Authorities said Thursday they are investigating after an infant was found dead in a Hobbs hospital room occupied by a 16-year-old girl.

The teen, accompanied by her mother, was getting treated at Covenant Health Hobbs Hospital on Wednesday.

Hospital staff told police they later discovered the dead baby in the restroom.

The infant's body has been sent to the Office of the Medical Investigator in Albuquerque for an autopsy.

Investigators have not said whether the teenager or her mother will face charges. They say the investigation is ongoing.

This is the second reported time this year an infant has been found dead in a New Mexico hospital.

In May, 19-year-old Alexee Trevizo, of Artesia, was charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence. Four months earlier, Trevizo locked herself in a hospital bathroom and gave birth to a boy. Police say she placed the baby in a bag and left the hospital.

Trevizo is scheduled to go to trial in August of next year.

Could New Mexico ban Trump from the ballot? - Andrew Beale, Source New Mexico

A lawsuit filed Sept. 5 in a state court in Colorado is asking a judge to rule that Donald Trump is ineligible to appear on the ballot in any future elections in that state, including the upcoming Republican primary.

Legal experts say a New Mexico case from last year, barring then-Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin from holding elected office, sets a precedent for the Colorado case, and Trump’s prospects to appear on the ballot around the country.

The suit seeks to have Trump barred from the ballot under the rules of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which states that no one is eligible to hold office if they have previously taken an oath to support the constitution and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.

The plaintiffs in the case are four Republican and two independent Colorado voters, including former Colorado House and Senate Majority Leader Norma Anderson.

A suit filed in Michigan last month and a separate case filed Sept. 12 in Minnesota also seek to bar Trump from the ballot on 14th Amendment grounds.

A similar suit brought in Florida was dismissed on standing grounds, though the court did not rule on the merits of the case. And two members of the Federalist Society, a right-wing legal organization, penned a recent law review article arguing that Trump cannot hold office under the provisions of the 14th Amendment.

The suit argues that it is “a matter of public record that Jan. 6 was an ‘insurrection’” and points out that more than a dozen federal courts, as well as Trump’s own lawyers during his second impeachment hearing, have used the word “insurrection” to describe the riot. Trump’s actions leading up to Jan. 6, and his attempt to exploit the violence at the Capitol to undermine the election process, put him at the head of that insurrection, the suit argues.


The team representing the plaintiffs includes attorneys from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a D.C.-based watchdog organization that previously represented New Mexico voters in the successful effort to ban Griffin from office.

Donald Sherman, CREW’s Executive Vice President and Chief Counsel, said that the order barring Griffin from office isn’t binding for cases in other states, since that case was brought under New Mexico state law. But it does provide a roadmap for other state courts to look to, Sherman said.

This article is part of U.S. Democracy Day, a nationwide collaborative on Sept. 15, the International Day of Democracy, in which news organizations cover how democracy works and the threats it faces. To learn more, visit usdemocracyday.org.

“This is authority that we believe is persuasive. It’s the only case since the 1800’s that has reached the merits of this question,” he said.

The 14th Amendment passed in 1868, and Section 3 prevented former Confederates from holding office in post-Civil War America. Prior to the Griffin case, the last Section 3 court case was in 1869, though Congress used Section 3 to bar an elected Socialist from taking his seat in 1919.

Chris Dodd, head of Dodd Law in Albuquerque, was one of the plaintiff’s attorneys working alongside CREW in the Griffin case. Judges ruling on Trump’s eligibility to hold office are likely to look to that case for guidance, he said.

“I think that they’re very similar. The important thing about Griffin’s case is that a judge has decided that what unfolded at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was an insurrection,” he said.

Two major differences between the cases are that unlike Griffin, Trump wasn’t physically present at the Capitol during the riot on Jan. 6. And unlike Griffin, Trump has not been convicted of any crimes related to the riot, though he has been criminally charged in federal and state courts. Neither of those things are likely to matter much, in Dodd’s view.

“Griffin did not coordinate Jan. 6, he wasn’t involved in planning it. He simply went, he encouraged others to go, while he was there he encouraged what was unfolding. And that was sufficient to result in a finding that he is barred from holding office,” he said. “I think the evidence is likely to show (Trump’s actions) are more severe. And I think the case against Donald Trump is ultimately stronger than it was against Couy Griffin.”

Dodd pointed out that former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was recently sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection, despite not being physically present at the Capitol. As for the lack of a criminal conviction in Trump’s case, “I don’t think that it plays really any role,” Dodd said.

“Griffin’s conviction in his criminal case was ultimately not determinative of what happened in our civil case against him. It’s two completely separate questions,” he said.

Source NM was unable to reach Griffin for comment on this story.

Can a similar suit come to New Mexico’s courts?

Sherman declined to say whether CREW is planning to bring a similar lawsuit in New Mexico. But he’s optimistic that a suit in the state would be successful.

“I would note that New Mexico is the one place in the country where there’s a clear precedent in state court of whether Jan. 6 was an insurrection,” he said.

But the question might be settled long before New Mexico’s primaries.

“The New Mexico primary’s pretty late. I imagine this case might be litigated and brought to the Supreme Court and resolved relatively soon,” Sherman said.

Dodd said there’s been talk amongst New Mexico lawyers about bringing a similar suit, but “I’m not aware of anybody that’s actively preparing to bring a case.”

Source NM reached out to the Republican Party of New Mexico for comment, but did not receive a response.

Bill Clinton remembers Bill Richardson as skilled, informal US diplomat: 'The bad guys liked him' - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Bill Clinton paid homage at a funeral Mass Thursday to former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as a groundbreaking Latino politician and unorthodox master diplomat who could coax good things out of dictators and despots.

Richardson served as the United States' ambassador to the United Nations and energy secretary under the former president, who described his unique trust in Richardson on the international stage and as a custodian of national security and nuclear weapons labs, including facilities at Los Alamos, New Mexico.

"The bad guys liked him. But there's a reason for that," said Clinton, describing an early mission by Richardson as U.N. ambassador to encourage a democratic transition of power in the Democratic Republic of Congo. "If you scratch hard enough and long enough on anybody, there's almost always still a person down there somewhere. ... He may be twisted beyond untwisting. But once in a while, they do the right thing anyway. Bill Richardson knew that."

Richardson died in his sleep at his home in Chatham, Massachusetts, earlier this month at age 75.

Political allies, Native American leaders and people touched by Richardson's work to free Americans imprisoned abroad gathered in Santa Fe's downtown Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi to honor a man known for his innate political skills, soaring ambition and ability to both clash and reconcile with rivals.

Clinton walked hand-on-hand with Richardson's widow, Barbara, following the casket into cathedral and back out again. Relatives of some of the political prisoners whom Richardson sought to free as well as Interior Secretary Deb Haaland were also in attendance.

Richardson's friendship with Clinton endured, despite having a falling out after Richardson dropped out of the 2008 presidential race and endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton.

The Clintons expressed their sadness after learning of Richardson's death earlier this month, and Bill Clinton on Thursday alluded to two "big fights" with Richardson that were reconciled with apologies and forgiveness.

"That's what real people try to do with their lives. Nobody is perfect," Clinton told a cathedral filled with hundreds of mourners.

Clinton during Thursday's service reiterated his appreciation for Richardson's informal methods of diplomacy. He described Richardson as big and hulky with a good sense of humor and someone who didn't mind being politically incorrect from time to time.

"His energy was infectious. His skills were prodigious. His life was a gift, and I'm so glad that, each in our different ways, we received it," Clinton said. "Now I ask you to go out of here and try to improve on his example. He would like it if you were trying."

Richardson throughout his career and after leaving public office was tapped for numerous unofficial diplomatic missions, using his knack for negotiation to free many Americans held hostage abroad.

Santa Fe Archbishop John C. Wester said faith was important to Richardson, recalling a story about a crucifix Richardson wore around his neck — a gift from his grandmother who lived in Mexico. Fearing that he would lose it during a baseball game, he had stashed it in his back pocket and it became lodged in his leg after he slid into second base. Richardson joked that it was a sign that his grandmother had embedded the faith deep in him — literally.

It was that faith that helped Richardson through his interactions with world leaders and others, Wester said, suggesting that Richardson's life paralleled that of the Good Samaritan in biblical stories. He said Richardson shook hands not out of duty but rather because he enjoyed meeting and getting along with people.

"Saint John of the Cross had a wonderful insight when he said that in the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone," Wester said. "This is the message of the cross, the message of the Good Samaritan, the message of Gov. Richardson's life — love one another, take risks for one another and have compassion for one another."

The line to enter the historic cathedral stretched around the building as hundreds filed inside, from members of New Mexico's congressional delegation to tribal governors and dignitaries from around the globe.

Hundreds also turned out Wednesday as Richardson's casket laid in state in the Capitol's rotunda. An arrangement of white roses sent by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden was joined by flowers from others who were there to remember the work he had done for the state.

Richardson served two terms as governor starting in 2003. His casket was flanked by a police guard and draped in the New Mexico state flag with its ancient Zia Pueblo symbol of the sun.

The memorial services have reunited top advisers and Cabinet secretaries to Richardson in his years as governor, which were marked by splashy employment and public works projects — the creation of a commuter rail line connecting Santa Fe with Albuquerque, an aerospace "spaceport" launch facility, and generous incentives to attract film productions to New Mexico in the era before "Breaking Bad."

Richardson enacted initiatives with a Democratic-led Legislature that put an end to the death penalty in the state, eliminated sales taxes on medicine and food in efforts to combat poverty, and renewed rights to collective bargaining by government workers that had expired under his Republican predecessor.


Associated Press writer Susan Montoya Bryan contributed to this report.

Ain’t no sunshine when the settlement data is gone – Danielle Prokop, Source New Mexico

In recent months, The New Mexico General Services Department has inconsistently updated its database tracking tens of millions of taxpayer dollars in settlements – and has given no answers as to why.

The sprawling state agency houses, among many things, property and printing services.

One division, the Risk Management Department, acts as an insurer for property and liability for state agencies. This can include covering property damage, sexual harassment, discrimination and other alleged misconduct.

It’s unclear who is directing the Risk Management Division. An undated directory shows the position as empty, and the website notes that the position is “To Be Determined.” According to the New Mexico Sunshine Portal, the General Services Department has a vacancy rate of 20% – that’s 72 vacancies within 321 positions.

The agency also publishes a portal noting what legal action the state settled, with who and for how much. Whenever the state settles a legal action, it’s paid with public money.

Despite repeated written requests for comment, the agency, while acknowledging the request, did not make anyone available for an interview regarding its policies and procedures around updating the database.

On Sept. 11, the portal had no new entries for one month since Aug. 11 – which would be a significant gap.

According to a Source NM analysis, in the past three years the largest stretch without any settlements filed was 14 days. This happened in both 2023 and 2020 from April 17 to May 1. In 2021 and 2022, that gap was shorter, with just 10 days without a settlement recorded in both years.

Since Source NM’s inquiry on Monday, someone at the agency updated the portal to include 17 settlements. Seven of those settlements were uploaded between noon and 5 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 14. Those 17 new settlements total $392, 770.

This failure to update the database may be a violation of New Mexico state law, which broadened transparency around settlements, said Melanie Majors, the executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government.

“This is mandated by state law, and somebody is violating state law by not doing it,” Majors said.

New Mexico passed a law in 2020 removing a six-month confidentiality period on settlements, now mandating the immediate release of settlement agreements, when it is signed by both parties.

The reform came after the high-profile settlements which cost taxpayers$1.7 million in the final days of former New Mexico Gov. Susanna Martinez’s administration.

This article is part of U.S. Democracy Day, a nationwide collaborative on Sept. 15, the International Day of Democracy, in which news organizations cover how democracy works and the threats it faces. To learn more, visit usdemocracyday.org.

Majors noted that the effort to pass the law had unanimous support from legislators and the current administration.

“Everyone felt this was important that this information should be made available, so where is the internal disconnect coming from that is keeping it from the public?” she asked.

So far this year, the state’s paid $17.1 million in settlements, according to a Source NM analysis.

“We know that the department pays millions of dollars each year to defend and settle damage claims,” Majors said. “The public has a right to know who’s receiving that money.”

We will update the story if we receive any statement or additional comment.


Last month, Source NM observed that settlement agreements were added to the site, weeks after they had been agreed and announced in courtrooms.

Following one settlement with a former employee at the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, Source NM found that there was at least one period where no settlements were added for 14 days. On Aug. 15, the agency published 18 settlements, some signed back in July.

The settlements appear on the portal with “release dates” that correspond to when they were signed by both parties, including release dates from July. The portal does not note when items are uploaded.

Source NM reached out to the person listed as the agency spokesperson both on the website at the time, and on the portal – Thom Cole.

Cole, who reached out after the story’s publication, told Source NM he left the agency in January 2023.

Sometime after Aug.15, the agency updated the website, removing Cole from the spokesperson position – but updated the contact information on the portal.

On Sept. 11, Source NM reached out to interim spokesperson Rod Crawley, requesting an interview to clarify why the portal had not been updated for a month, and clarify why Cole was still listed as the contact on the portal.

Crawley said in an email he had forwarded the request to the “legal bureau for the specifics on the Sunshine Portal” in an email and said he would reach back out.

When Source NM emailed Crawley in a follow-up Sept. 13, an out of office email said he would be unavailable until Sept. 21.

Interview requests emailed to other GSD employees, and submitted on the contact form went unreturned Sept. 14.

Enough to make your skin crawl: 20 rattlesnakes found inside a homeowner's garage in Arizona - Associated Press

An Arizona man called a snake removal company after seeing what he thought were three rattlesnakes lurking in the garage of his Mesa home. He was wrong.

There actually were 20 snakes — five adult western diamondback rattlers and 15 babies. One of the adult snakes also was pregnant.

Snake wrangler Marissa Maki found most of the rattlers coiled around the base of a hot water heater in the unidentified homeowner's cluttered garage Tuesday.

"That is a lot of snakes. I'm not going to lie. This is crazy," Maki said in a YouTube video recorded by the company, Rattlesnake Solutions.

The western diamondbacks, with their distinctive triangular-shaped heads, are found throughout the Southwest. And though their venom is far less toxic than other rattlesnake species, they still require care when being handled.

Maki used tongs to pick up each snake before dropping them into large plastic buckets and relocating them to a natural habitat in a desert area.

"This is our record for the most rattlesnakes caught in one call!" said company owner Bryan Hughes.

The number could have been higher. Hughes said several shedded skins were found in the garage, indicating as many as 40 snakes may have lived there at some point.

"We'll never know how many rattlesnakes have come and gone over time," he said.

Rattlesnake Solutions made headlines in July when the company successfully removed a non-venomous coachwhip snake from a Tucson home. Their 20-second video showed that 3- to 4-foot (roughly 1-meter) snake being plucked from a toilet bowl and hissing straight at the camera.