Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Public Safety

Mystery surrounds death of man in police custody

—Bill Diven

It may be another two months before medical investigators can say what killed a man taken into police custody after rampaging through the Walmart in Bernalillo.

Rio Rancho police are investigating the death of Ben A. C de Baca, 45, at the request of the Bernalillo Police Department.

“It’s an open case,” RRPD Captain Paul Rogers told the Signpost. “It’s going to take up to ninety days for the toxicology screen.”

Until that is done, the Office of the Medical Investigator can’t rule on a cause of death.

There is little question about the sequence of events late on Sunday, September 6, witnessed by numerous people and captured at least in part on security cameras. To be determined is whether the car crash that deployed airbags, a struggle inside Walmart with customers and staff, restraint by Bernalillo police, a medical episode or some other cause led to C de Baca’s death.

Bernalillo Police Chief Tom Romero told the Signpost that his agency sent four officers to what at first seemed like separate incidents: a domestic dispute and car crash at the McDonald’s restaurant on State Road 528 and a disturbance inside the nearby Walmart reported soon thereafter.

It later was determined C de Baca was a passenger in the car driven by a woman and that he caused the crash by trying to take control of the car, Romero said. From there, C de Baca ran about a tenth of a mile across Montoya Road and into the Walmart where he began throwing TVs from a shelf before being subdued and restrained by customers and store personnel, he added.

Despite being neighbors on the same side of NM 528, the McDonald’s is in Rio Rancho while the Walmart is in Bernalillo.

Two Bernalillo officers soon arrived at Walmart, handcuffed the still-struggling suspect, and decided to take him outside to better contain the situation, Romero continued. C de Baca continued to resist but suddenly stopped struggling and lost consciousness, he added.

The officers administered CPR, which was continued by emergency-medical personnel who already had been dispatched to the crash, but they were unable to revive C de Baca. The two Bernalillo officers and two more who arrived on the scene were placed on two-day administrative leave before returning to duty.

“There are no obvious signs the officers did anything contrary to their training and our policies, but it’s still under investigation,” Romero said. “The officers are fully cooperating with the investigation.”

Also involved in the case is the Santa Ana Pueblo Police Department, which had dispatched an officer as backup, the chief said.

Officials said C de Baca had been living in Rio Rancho with no known connections to Bernalillo. An online obituary, which says he is survived by his wife, described him as a Santa Fe resident and a graduate of Santa Fe High School.

Lieutenant Charlie Molinari, left, and Assistant Chief Brian Culp of the Sandoval County Fire Department recently completed the first half of a two-year elite training program at the National Fire Academy.

Sandoval County fire officials participate in Elite National Training Program

—Sidney Hill, Public Information Officer, Sandoval County

Lieutenant Charlie Molinari and Assistant Chief Brian Culp of the Sandoval County Fire Department recently completed the first half of a two-year course of advanced officer training at the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Academy. These veteran Sandoval County firefighters were selected for The National Fire Academy’s Managing Officer Program among a field of nationwide applicants. The program is offered at the National Fire Academy Campus in Emmitsburg, MD.

The program consists of a two-year curriculum that introduces emerging emergency services leaders to personal and professional skills in change management, risk reduction and adaptive leadership. Acceptance into the program is the first step toward professional development as a career or volunteer fire/emergency medical services (EMS) manager.

Sandoval County Fire Chief James Maxon said the Managing Officer Program builds on foundational management and technical competencies, learning to address issues of interpersonal and cultural sensitivity, professional ethics, and outcome-based performance.

The National Fire Academy was created as a result of the landmark document America Burning and the subsequent passage of the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974. It is estimated that, since 1975, more than 1,400,000 students have received training through a variety of course delivery methods. For more information, visit

Magdalena Ranger District’s personal-use firewood season now open

—Marta Call

The 2015 firewood cutting season began on August 3 on the Magdalena Ranger District of the Cibola National Forest. The season will run through February 2016, weather permitting. The district will issue permits to cut green wood and dead/down wood. The specifics are:

  • Dead/ down or dead standing wood: any species except oak can be cut, but must be 14 inches in diameter or less. Please note that if a tree has any green on it, even one branch, it is considered green. For a tree to be considered dead it must be completely dead.
  • Green wood: you may cut any green cedar, piñon, and juniper trees that are 14 inches in diameter or less.

The cost for a personal use permit is ten dollars per cord. There is a two-cord minimum purchase (eight-cord maximum).

Permits can be purchased at: Magdalena Ranger District, U.S. 60 and Kelly Road in Magdalena, weekdays from 8:00 to noon and 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Call 575-854-2281 for more information.

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