Guard, ABQ can’t resolve allegations, »Albuquerque Journal

An armed member of the New Mexico Civil Guard and Curandera Alma Rosa Silva-Banuelos stand near the Juan de Oñate sculpture in front of the Albuquerque Museum on June 15, 2020 during a protest that eventually turned violent and led the city to remove the statue remove the next day. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / Albuquerque Journal)

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The controversial Guardia Civil of New Mexico is threatening to sue the city of Albuquerque for the treatment of several members after a chaotic protest that ended in a shootout that made headlines across the country last year.

A letter from the Journal, written by Civil Guard attorney Paul Kennedy, outlines the group’s intention to file a civil lawsuit against the city following a June 2020 protest by a statue of Juan de Oñate in the Old City.

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No member of the group – there to protect the statue – was charged.

The letter includes Kennedy’s request to settle himself with $ 750,000 and the city’s response to negotiate rather than face a lawsuit.

These negotiations failed on Thursday morning.

Mayor Tim Keller’s office declined to comment on the mediation but said it tried to resolve the dispute without litigation but was unable to reach an agreement.

“We do not allow ourselves to be bullied by hate groups,” said a spokesman for the mayor’s office.

Officials arrest members of the New Mexico Civil Guard after a man was shot dead near the Albuquerque Museum in a protest against a statue of Juan de Oñate last year. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / Albuquerque Journal)

Bryce Provance, a former member of the Civil Guard, said Keller and Albuquerque police targeted the group before the protest and wrongly arrested them afterwards.

He said although APD and Keller knew the group was not linked to the shooter, they labeled members of the Guardia Civil as criminals and worse for the public.

Kennedy did not respond to requests for comment.

The New Mexico Civil Guard, a group of civilians practicing military exercises together, made headlines and drew the wrath of local leaders for being heavily armed to protest. Tensions rose between protesters and group members before counter-protester Steven Baca shot and killed protester Scott Williams after a scuffle.

Williams is also threatening legal action on charges of negligence in handling the protest and the subsequent investigation by the city and the APD.

An Albuquerque police officer arrested a member of the New Mexico Civil Guard after a shooting in a protest in Old City last year. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / Albuquerque Journal)

The Civil Guard’s letter of claim alleges that its members were targeted by the police before the shooting, then wrongly detained for several hours and identified on Twitter by Keller and then Police Chief Michael Geier as a possible criminal suspect and a potential “federal hate group” be.

Shortly after the incident, 2nd District Attorney Raúl Torrez filed a lawsuit against the Guardia Civil to restrict its activities – arguing that civilian militias can only be activated by the governor of the state and the Civil Guard act like law enforcement agencies with no legal authority to do so this. This case is pending.

“These seven arrests resulted from a series of decisions made by the city’s top political figures, apparently with the aim of punishing these people for their political association with the Guardia Civil,” said Kennedy’s letter of appeal, adding that the Senior members of the police department knew that the shooter was not a member of the Civil Guard or was associated with the group.

The letter said then-APD Deputy Chief Harold Medina, Commander Arturo Sanchez and Sgt. Albert Sandoval knew the group would be present at the protest and called officers nearby to wait and “see whether they could catch NMCG doing illegal activities ”.

Undercover officers at the protest kept APD informed of events leading up to the shooting, which, according to the letter, happened when members of the Civil Guard appeared to be leaving the area. After the shooting, members of the Guardia Civil surrounded Baca and “secured” his weapon before the APD stormed in and arrested “anyone who was armed”.

The letter stated that members’ weapons were confiscated and held in the street – when people threw stones and water bottles at them – before moving between police vehicles or interrogation rooms for several hours.

During that time, the letter said that police identified Baca as the shooter – through a detective on the scene, video evidence on social media, and Baca’s own testimony – but members of the Civil Guard have still not been released.

The men suffered from persistent handcuffs, according to the letter, and one urinated on himself because he could not use a bathroom, and another was diagnosed with post-traumatic osteoarthritis as a result of being long handcuffed.

“While suffering these injuries and humiliations, the policymakers responsible for their arrests misled the press about their behavior and suggested they were criminals,” the letter reads.

The letter stated that these officers never told the public that “the so-called ‘vigilante groups’ are being held as witnesses rather than suspects”.

“The Witnesses were unable to defend themselves because they were held as prisoners in the city in handcuffs, with no lawyers and no means of communicating with their friends and families,” the letter said.

In a letter to members of the Guardia Civil, Kennedy said that after receiving the letter of formal notice, the prosecutor had asked the attorney not to file a civil complaint and “enter into a negotiation process.”

“This is a good sign as it means that the city, in turn, accepts liability and is likely to want to settle this case instead of litigating it,” he wrote in the letter. “Whether they pay enough money to solve the case is, of course, another question.”

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