Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Public Safety

Cash recovered by Sandoval County Sheriff’s Department during September’s marijuana bust in Placitas.
Photo credit: —Sandoval County Sheriff’s Department

Pot grow shooting has unexpected end

—Signpost Staff

The investigation into a Placitas homeowner killing an intruder with his own gun and officers then discovering more than two hundred marijuana plants has run into an unexpected development. The homeowner, Mark Richardson, has died from natural causes, one of his attorneys confirmed.

“My office manager and I were the ones sitting with him when he passed,” attorney Richard Cravens said. “I was on the phone with his mom. My office manager was holding his hand.” Richardson, 59, suffered from cancer and declined “fairly rapidly” before his death on November 25, he said.

“He was a kind, peaceful pacifist who I think probably fit right into the Placitas community,” Cravens continued. “He didn’t own any guns. It was amazing that the incident turned out the way it did. Thirty versus fifty; gun versus no gun.”

Sandoval County sheriff’s investigators treating the case as a homicide have said little about the September 16 shooting at the home off State Road 165 east of Placitas village beyond two brief news releases. By those accounts, James Garcia, 31, of Albuquerque broke into the home in the predawn darkness wearing black clothing and a mask, carrying a handgun and other weapons. Garcia and Richardson then fought in the living room, multiple shots were fired, and Richardson managed to overpower Garcia and shoot him. Investigators later obtained a search warrant and discovered the marijuana plants growing indoors elsewhere on the property.

Cravens said Richardson walked with a cane because of his illness and used it in defending himself. Cravens, who initially dealt with investigators and the news media, said he had done real estate work for Richardson and only handles civil matters. “My role was to take care of him that day,” he said.

A criminal defense attorney then took up the case, but he has not yet responded to a message left at his office by the Signpost.

Assistant District Attorney Aaron Aragón said the sheriff’s office completed its part of the investigation and turned over the case file to prosecutors.

“We’re still reviewing everything and waiting on a few lab results to come back to assure we’ve had a full investigation,” Aragón said. “However, that given the victim and possible defendant are deceased, that’s going to play a substantial role in our decision.”

The case has two separate aspects: the shooting and the marijuana grow, he added while declining to discuss case details or what charges might have been under consideration. Additional information is likely to be released once the case is closed, Aragón said.

Cravens said Richardson was licensed to use marijuana because of his illness. The attorney said he couldn’t comment on the marijuana plants or the shooting.

Retired Army Reserve Col. David C'de Baca displays a panel of Korean War veterans from Sandoval County during a December presentation at the Placitas Community and Senior Center.
Photo credit: —Zane Dohner

Rich history revealed in search for county’s veterans

—Signpost Staff

David C’de Baca’s little project to identify the World War I veterans from Corrales instead turned into a countywide journey of discovery documenting little-known tales of service and sacrifice.

“It started off as a tribute to World War I veterans because we were going into the centennial of the war,” C’de Baca said. “They were going to honor those buried in the cemetery, but there are only 16 there.

“I knew there were more and found 42 names that were read off during the ceremony.”

That coincided with a visit from Martha Liebert, then-president of the Sandoval County Historical Society, and their realization there was no similar compilation of veterans for the county.

“She asked me to run with it,” C’de Baca said.

And run he did under sponsorship from the county historical society, Sandoval County government and the Historical Society of New Mexico and backed by volunteers in communities and Indian nations. So far working with records and local families they’ve compiled nearly 5,200 names of men and women from early territorial times through the Vietnam War era who either joined them from the county or later resided here.

That includes veterans from what is now Los Alamos County, which was carved out of Sandoval and Santa Fe counties in 1949. The team also has amassed more than 1,200 photographs of the men and women.

The names and photos now occupy thirty boards currently being framed by the county for display in the administrative building on Idalia Road. A formal unveiling is tentatively set for Memorial Day although C’de Baca said he expects the full display to be up before then.

But there’s more to this than just names and pictures.

“There are some fabulous stories. It’s been quite revealing,” C’de Baca continued. “To me the untold story is about our Native American prisoners of war in World War II.”

While a quarter of Prisoner Of Wars (POWs) in the European Theater died while prisoners as did a third in the Pacific Theater, Native American POWs in the Pacific died at a higher rate. A Santo Domingo Pueblo veteran told C’de Baca that was because American Indians with Asian features were treated more brutally because the Japanese viewed them as traitors.

“Throughout the course of this project we’re trying to document all the POWS,” he said. “Looking at the data I was stunned to see of ten Native American POWs in the Japanese Theater, only two were liberated and the other eight died in captivity.”

There’s also the Great Blockade—pueblo warriors combining forces during the Civil War to protect their people from Confederate soldiers raiding homes and farms as they moved up the Rio Grande Valley.

“This is the first that this is being told,” he said. “It exists as oral history in the villages and communities, Hispanic and Indian.

“I know about it because it was passed down from my grandmother, and she learned about it from her grandparents from Peña Blanca.”

Each panel costs about $100, and the project is supported in part by a $1,000 grant from the Historical Society of New Mexico and $750 from the Sandoval County Historical Society. C’de Baca has covered the remaining panel costs, and the county is paying to set up the permanent display.

“This is a movement whose time has come,” said Liebert, the longtime and now former president of the county historical society. “David has stepped in and filled the need. Time is passing so quickly as we’re losing these people.

“He’s sat in kitchens recording stories that won’t be found anywhere else.”

The volunteer time using a standard rate applied to grant matching funds is valued at $76,000 so far. C’de Baca cited as major collectors of material in their communities current historical society President Lorraine Dominguez-Stubblefield of Rio Rancho, Felix Lucero of Cochiti Pueblo, Avelino Calabaza of Santo Domingo Pueblo, Benny Bernal of Peña Blanca, Lana Valencia of San Felipe Pueblo, Florence McCoy of Cuba, Larry Pecos of Jemez Pueblo, and Wayne Sandoval of Placitas.

The displays feature larger photos and more details on veterans awarded the Bronze Star for heroic or meritorious service in a combat zone and the eight who received the Silver Star for combat valor.

After reading the Silver Star citation for Ben Quintana of Cochiti Pueblo, C’de Baca believes his actions warranted the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross awarded for extreme gallantry, a step above the Silver Star and one below a Medal of Honor.

Quintana, an aspiring artist who had won a national contest, was serving as an ammunition carrier supplying machine gunners when Japanese troops attacked during the Battle of Leyte in the Philippines. When he found his gunner killed and the assistant gunner wounded, he could have turned back but instead decided to fight alone.

“He delivered withering machine-gun fire, was wounded, reloaded and kept shooting until the Japanese broke off the attack,” C’de Baca said. Honor was big in the Japanese culture, and retreats were rare.

“He saved his unit but died from his wounds.”

The collection still lacks a photo and more information on Silver Star recipient Emiliano Gonzalez of Bernalillo. He and his brother both fought in World War II, and they, their mother and possibly two sisters left Bernalillo for parts unknown.

“They were a very poor family,” C’de Baca said. “No one remembers them.”

C’de Baca spent nearly 33 years in the New Mexico National Guard and the Army Reserve assigned his last five years to the U.S. Joint Forces Command set up to insure coordination among the services. His duties put him in regular contact with the other armed forces adding, he said, to his sense of acting for all veterans, not just those from the Army.

He can be contacted through the Sandoval County Historical Society at 867-2755.

Bernalillo stabbing results in murder charge

—Signpost Staff

A December argument between two men with family ties ended with what, at Signpost deadline, was the only alleged murder recorded in Bernalillo in 2015. Christopher Myers, 26, is charged with an open count of murder in the stabbing death of Richard Lovato, 29, Bernalillo police reported. The men were related, according to police, and another source said they may have been step- or half-brothers.

The argument erupted on the evening of December 11 in a home on Railroad Track Road, near East Avenida Bernalillo. Responding officers found Lovato gravely wounded and a few minutes later received a call about an injured man walking into the Range Café a short distance away.

Lovato was pronounced dead at University of New Mexico Hospital, and Myers was treated there. Myers has since made his first court appearance and been released on bond, according to online court records.

Ex-employee of Roadrunner Wireless Internet Services arrested, posted bond

—Paul J. Rogers, Captain, Rio Rancho Police Department

The Rio Rancho Police Department has been pursuing an ongoing investigation regarding criminal activity perpetrated by Gordon Logan. The victim, Roadrunner Wireless Internet Services, was an employer of Logan. When Logan’s employment was terminated, he unlawfully accessed Roadrunner Wireless Internet services and changed passcodes, re-routed email systems, changed support telephone numbers, and embezzled equipment from the company.

On November 6, the Rio Rancho Police Department received information that Logan had once again misrepresented himself as a technician still employed by Roadrunner Wireless to gain access to a customer’s tower site. An antenna was installed that interfered with the customers signal and was subsequently located by Roadrunner Wireless on a service call.

Subsequently, a search warrant was obtained and executed at Logan’s home. Several electronic devices were seized for forensic analysis. The Rio Rancho Police Department has released this information due to the suspect’s ongoing activity, which has proved detrimental to Roadrunner Wireless Internet Services and its customers. Logan is not in jail, as he posted a $15,000 dollar bond.

Rep. James Smith

Sen. John Sapien

Legislature promises wrangle over money and crime

—Bill Diven

The short session of the Legislature—thirty days in even-numbered years—is supposed to be about crafting a balanced budget for the coming fiscal year. But as with many things in Santa Fe, especially in an election year, rarely is life so simple.

“This is going to be the public-safety session, I can tell you that,” said Rep. James Smith, R-Sandia Park, whose District 22 includes Placitas and Algodones.

The session begins on January 19, but by late December legislators had prefilled one hundred bills, many with tough-on-crime targets like habitual offenders, juvenile curfews, delinquent and adult sentencing, mandatory sentences, and child pornography. Also filed is a constitutional amendment to eliminate bail for violent repeat offenders awaiting trial.

“It’s just because of what’s going on right now,” Smith said, citing high profile cases including the DWI suspect whose second arrest followed a crash that killed three and the fatal road-rage shooting of a four-year-old Albuquerque girl. “The public perception is that something needs to be done.”

The caveat to all this is that bills not related to the budget can only be considered during a short session at the request of the governor through a message known as the governor’s call. Whether repeat attempts to limit payday-loan rates and eliminate daylight saving time will make the call, and how many complicated bills can be considered, let alone passed, in thirty days, all will play out before the session ends at noon on February 18.

What has become an annual fight over whether or not undocumented immigrants can have driver’s licenses appears headed for a climax, not that the federal government is insisting on compliance with the REAL ID Act. A compromise in the last session creating a compliant driver’s license for legal residents, and a separate license for others, passed the Senate but died in the House.

Bills and their progress, details on legislators, and other information can be found on the Legislature’s website

Still, the session will be about money and the state budget that tops six billion dollars. The amount of “new money” available for operations, education, programs, and projects continues to slide with the price of oil and gas from the well fields of northwestern and southeastern counties.

Oil, priced above $110 dollars a barrel in mid 2014, currently sells below forty dollars a barrel, costing the state as much as ten million dollars in revenue for each sustained one dollar drop. At a December 7 meeting of the Legislative Finance Committee, projected new money was pegged at $232 million dollars, a drop of more than sixty million dollars from the August estimate.

Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales, chairs the Senate Education Committee where administration officials recently talked of a surplus from the current budget year ending June 30. Sapien said he couldn’t get a straight answer on how current revenue makes up for lost oil-and-gas income and shows surplus funds to be spent next year.

“The numbers just don’t add up,” he told the Signpost. “The nice part is there is bipartisan concern about the suggested revenue surpluses. Republicans and Democrats alike question the assumptions by the administration.”

Sapien and Smith have a track record of working together on some issues from removing Placitas from a controversial flood-control district several years ago to funding water and acequia systems. They’ve also been in contact with the Las Placitas Association on a plan to monitor petroleum-related pipelines for leaks although it appears premature to ask for state funding.

“Whatever we can do to protect the people of Placitas from the ills of the pipelines, I’m in favor,” he said.

Smith, chair of the Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee, said he’ll introduce legislation to refine the reporting of campaign contributions to make it easier to follow the money and clarify sources when lobbyists bundle multiple sources into a single donation. A House memorial he already filed, based on interim-committee hearings, asks the Attorney General to look into enhancing state protections for cultural property on tribal lands.

“Throughout the interim we kept going to all these pueblos and chapter houses and getting residents complaining about people coming onto their property and stealing artifacts to sell on the black market,” Smith said. That black market can include local flea markets, he added.

“Some of the pueblos said some of this stuff is so sensitive we can’t even tell you what it is,” he said. “It involves religious ceremonies.”

Unlike regular bills, House and Senate memorials and proposed constitutional amendments bypass the governor’s call and, if approved, don’t require her signature.

Rail Runner passengers encouraged to be aware and report anything suspicious

It’s a pretty simple message—“If you See Something, Say Something.” And now that message is expanding to the New Mexico Rail Runner Express. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), NMDHS Emergency Management, New Mexico All Source Intelligence Center (NMASIC), Herzog Transit Services, and New Mexico State Department of Transportation have joined together to announce the expansion of the “If You See Something, Say Something™” public awareness campaign.

“National security begins with the local community,” said DHSEM Cabinet Secretary, Jay Mitchell. “Who better knows what constitutes normal or suspicious activity at the local level more than those that live, work, or attend school in your community. This program has proven to be effective in engaging the public to identify and report indicators of terrorism, crime, and other threats to the proper transportation and law enforcement authorities and will help prevent terrorist attacks and other related criminal activity from occurring.”

Throughout the State of New Mexico and on the New Mexico Rail Runner Express, the campaign encourages commuters and the public to play a key role in protecting our communities by maintaining awareness throughout their normal day. The campaign is in both English and Spanish. It’s as simple as reporting something or someone’s behavior that “doesn’t seem quite right.

Call 911 to report suspicious activity, or contact local authorities. Describe specifically what was observed, including: who; what was seen; when it was observed; where it occurred; and why it appeared suspicious.

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