By Associated Press - Wednesday, August 19, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Authorities have identified a man suspected of killing an Albuquerque woman outside her home in November - a killing that garnered national attention last month after President Donald Trump invited the woman’s husband to the White House over her unsolved death.

Authorities have focused on Luis Talamantes, a purported member of the Juaritos Maravilla street gang and an immigrant suspected of being in the country illegally, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

He has been held in Texas since Jan. 21 on federal charges of illegal re-entry, the newspaper reported. He has not been charged in the November 2019 death of Colombian-immigrant Jacqueline Vigil.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and Albuquerque Police Chief Mike Geier said a suspect, who they did not identify, was charged Wednesday with federal firearms crimes.

They said Talamantes was identified by homicide detectives as a suspect in the woman’s killing long before Operation Legend and the U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson got involved in the investigation.

Operation Legend is the name of the Trump Administration operation that is sending federal agents to targeted cities to fight crime.

“For many months we have been aware that we were making real progress on the case but couldn’t comment publicly, or push back on a lot of myths being said about our police department,” Keller said in a statement. “We are fortunate that APD has been doing the hard work over the last nine months to identify a suspect and ensure he was locked up and not able to commit additional crimes while they investigated the murder.”

It was not known if Talamantes had an attorney.

Critics of Keller and proponent of Operation Legend have used the unsolved killing of the woman to highlight Albuquerque’s high crime rate.

According to police, Vigil was killed early one morning as she was leaving to go to the gym. Her husband saw a brown Jeep Cherokee speed away and found his wife with a gunshot wound. The killing was the city’s 72nd in a year that ended with a record 82 homicides.

Vigil’s death drew more attention since she was the mother of two state police officers.

Federal statistics from 2018 - the latest nonpreliminary numbers available - show Albuquerque had a violent crime rate more than 3.5 times the national average. And recent high-profile killings and burglaries have convinced some that the numbers aren’t declining as quickly as they should be.

“Albuquerque…has the reputation for being one of the violent - most violent cities in the country,” Sam Vigil, Jacqueline’s husband, said during a July announcement about Operation Legend at the White House. “We need desperately…some help to get after the crime rates that we have going on there.”

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