LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - Dona Ana County’s district attorney has issued a scathing letter to the Las Cruces Police Department after learning of alleged problems with the department’s investigation into the fatal shooting of a Santa Fe County sheriff’s deputy in Las Cruces.
District Attorney Mark D’Antonio’s letter to police Chief Jaime Montoya accuses the department of maintaining a culture of disrespect and undeserved criticism toward his office, The Las Cruces Sun-News reported (https://bit.ly/2o0kU2M ).
The Tuesday letter follows Detective Irma Palos’ lawsuit, which alleges her investigation into former deputy Tai Chan’s fatal shooting of his partner in 2014 was deliberately obstructed by her supervisors. She claims she was denied resources in the investigation because she previously reported sexual misconduct within the department.
D’Antonio said he had not been informed by the department of Palos’ complaint, which was filed in October.
Palos’ lawsuit, D’Antonio said, suggests “possible police corruption, obstruction of justice, and the mishandling of a major case involving the alleged cold-blooded assassination of a police officer.”
The district attorney also told Montoya he would get started on his own investigation into LCPD’s internal investigation of the detective’s claims if he did not receive a complete debriefing and report on the matter.
“I will not allow internal strife at LCPD to undermine the DA’s office in putting the best case forward in a case involving a dead police officer,” D’Antonio’s letter states.
Chan is scheduled to face a retrial in May. Authorities have said the shooting of Deputy Jeremy Martin followed an alcohol-fueled argument during a stopover in Las Cruces while the deputies were transporting an inmate.
Chan’s first murder trial ended in a mistrial in June.
Las Cruces City Manager Stuart Ed responded to D’Antonio with a letter Friday, saying he will work to improve communications between D’Antonio’s office and the Police Department. He also added “that he has “complete faith and confidence” in Montoya’s leadership.
Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, https://www.lcsun-news.com
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