MON: New Mexico Legislator Flees Home Following Threatening Phone Messages, + More

8 hours ago

New Mexico Legislator Flees Home After Threats Received - Associated Press

A New Mexico state senator says he received anonymous threatening telephone messages shortly after publicly criticizing a political demonstration that took place outside the state Capitol, and that he fears for his safety. 

State Sen. Jacob Candelaria said Sunday that he received a series of profanity-laced telephone voice messages. One caller accused the Democratic senator from Albuquerque of not knowing what it means to be an American and said that “we’re going to get you out one way or another." Candelaria took the message as a possible death threat.

Another message included homophobic slurs against the openly gay legislator and attorney.

Candelaria expressed frustration with the response by law enforcement after a visit from State Police officers. 

The messages were left hours after Candelaria appeared in a TV newscast Saturday night to criticize as risky and irresponsible a rally in which a few hundred demonstrators gathered outside the Statehouse mostly without masks to urge the governor to reopen the economy and denounce pandemic restrictions. Campaign flags for President Donald Trump were on prominent display. 

State health officials have banned gatherings of more than five people and mandated masks in public, with a variety of restrictions on businesses, amid a series of record-setting statewide daily tallies for COVID-19 infections in recent days.

Candelaria said he was fleeing Albuquerque for his safety and the safety of his spouse.

He described the response from local and state law enforcement authorities as inadequate in light of credible recent threats against politicians such as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

Candelaria said State Police officers arrived at his home after more than 12 hours. Candelaria said he grew frustrated when officers suggested the voice messages were not necessarily a threat.

State Police Lieutenant and spokesperson Mark Soriano said Sunday the agency's investigations bureau is actively handling Candelaria's complaint of threats, with no further information available.

The initial response by State Police personnel also is being reviewed.

Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesperson for the Albuquerque Police Department, said Sunday that a city officer contacted Candelaria after his initial 911 call and arranged a type of periodic surveillance of the senator's home. He said State Police are leading the investigation.

New Mexico Reports 828 New Coronavirus Cases, 2 More Deaths - Associated Press

At least seven states — New Mexico, Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Oklahoma — saw record high infection levels Saturday. A day after reporting a record number of new COVID-19 cases with 875, New Mexico health officials reported 828 more confirmed cases Sunday along with two additional deaths. 

The latest numbers increase the state's totals to 41,863 cases and 967 known deaths. 

New Mexico Department of Health officials say 206 of the new cases were in Doña Ana County with 156 more in Bernalillo County, the state's largest that includes Albuquerque. 

Saturday's case count topped the 827 cases newly reported on Wednesday. New Mexico reported 669 cases Thursday and 797 on Friday. 

More than 350 doctors, nurses and other health care professionals in New mexico signed a letter imploring residents to stay home as much as possible, wear masks and limit large gatherings to help prevent another wave of “lonely deaths.”

Navajo Nation: No New COVID-19 Deaths For 5th Day In Row - Associated Press

Navajo Nation health officials report 64 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 but no additional deaths for the fifth consecutive day. 

The latest figures released Saturday night bring the total number of cases to 11,217 with the known death toll remaining at 574. 

Tribal health officials said 121,274 people on the vast reservation have been tested for COVID-19 since the pandemic started and 7,466 have recovered. 

A shelter-in-place order, mask mandate, daily curfews and weekend lockdowns remain in effect on the Navajo Nation. 

Lawyer: APD Allegations Against Former Police Spokesperson 'False'- Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A lawyer for a now-former Albuquerque police officer denies allegations that his client wrongfully collected thousands of dollars of overtime pay while serving as the department's spokesperson. 

Attorney Sam Bregman told the Albuquerque Journal that allegations in a police department news release regarding former Officer Simon Drobik are "absolutely false." 

The police department said in a statement Friday that an internal investigation concluded that Drobik violated policies on overtime pay and would have been fired if he hadn't retired during the investigation. 

According to the department, Drobik got paid for work he didn't perform while multiple supervisors looked the other way.

The department said one supervisor will be disciplined as a result of the investigation and that the department is overhauling its practices for overtime.

The department also said it has made referrals and notifications to the Office of the State Auditor, the State Law Enforcement Academy Board and the Office of the Attorney General.

Drobik retired in July after serving as the department's public face for years.

Minority Pushes Trump Agenda Largely Unpopular Among Tribes - By Felicia Fonseca And Morgan Lee Associated Press

The Navajo Nation vice president is part of a vocal minority pushing Donald Trump's agenda in areas long considered Democratic territory. 

Myron Lizer argues that Native American values of hard work, family and ranching align more with the GOP than with Democrats. 

It's difficult to say how most tribal members vote because the majority do not live on reservations and county lines don't align with tribal voters. 

Historically, the Native American community has been considered a Democratic Party constituency. Lizer says he wants to shake up that belief. 

He and other Native American leaders well-known in Republican circles recently helped launch a Native Americans for Trump coalition.

Lizer's political ideology isn't popular among many Navajos. He's been criticized for meeting with Trump, speaking at the Republican National Convention, not always wearing a mask in public and infusing virtual town hall meetings with scripture.

But the former pastor, who is Navajo and Comanche, believes he's opened the door for Native American Republicans, including evangelical Christians and veterans, to express their views.

Former Longtime New Mexico Lawmaker Nick Salazar Dies At 91 - Associated Press

Former New Mexico state Rep. Nick Salazar, who served in the Legislature for 46 years until his retirement in 2018, has died. He was 91. 

State officials said Salazar died late Friday. No cause of death was immediately available. But when Salazar announced his intention to retire, he said he had developed problems with his heart and vision. 

Salazar, a Democrat, served District 40 representing parts of Colfax, Mora, Rio Arriba, and San Miguel counties. 

He's credited with his work on behalf of New Mexico's seniors including sponsoring the creation of the Aging and Long Term Services Department. 

Salazar, of Ohkay Owingeh, served on the Rio Arriba County Commission in the 1960s before he was elected to the House in 1972.

Former Alamogordo Officer Sentenced In Fatal Roswell Wreck - Roswell Daily Record, Associated Press

A former Alamogordo police officer has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a 2019 wreck in Roswell in which one person was killed and two others injured. 

Luke Maxwell Towner faces a Dec. 14 hearing after pleading guilty Thursday in state District Court to homicide by vehicle, aggravated DWI and great bodily harm. 

The Roswell Daily Record reports that Judge James Hudson said a plea agreement recommends a 15-year sentence, including 12 years in prison and three years suspended and served on supervised probation. 

Court documents indicate Towner was driving at 70 mph when his pickup rear-ended a vehicle at a traffic light.

Doug Annis, 26, of Roswell, was in the other vehicle's backseat and was fatally injured. That vehicle's driver and a second passenger were injured.

Towner was an Alamogordo police officer from 2013 to 2016.