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A suspect linked to Albuquerque shootings at elected officials' homes is in custody

Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina announces on Monday that police have a suspect in custody who they believe is linked to at least one of the recent shootings at or near the homes or offices of several elected officials.
Adolphe Pierre-Louis
The Albuquerque Journal via AP
Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina announces on Monday that police have a suspect in custody who they believe is linked to at least one of the recent shootings at or near the homes or offices of several elected officials.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Authorities in New Mexico's largest city said a suspect believed to be linked to at least one of the shootings at or near the homes or offices of several elected officials was in custody Monday, but they declined to release his name.

Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said the man was being held on unrelated charges and that detectives were still awaiting the results of several outstanding search warrants filed in the investigation.

"We're just waiting to get a return on some of the information to ensure that everything we have, that the case we're building is as strong as possible and to see what other aspects are involved," Medina said.

Authorities declined to say what charges the man was being held on.

They did confirm, however, that officers seized a firearm linked to the suspect that was used in the shooting at a home, but have yet to determine whether it was connected to any of the others, which occurred between early December and early January.

No one has been injured in the shootings, which come amid a rise in threats to members of Congress, school board members, election officials and other government workers around the nation. In Albuquerque, law enforcement has been struggling to address back-to-back years of record homicides and persistent gun violence.

In the latest case to come to light, Albuquerque Democrat Javier Martinez, the incoming speaker of the state House, inspected his home following reports last week of gunshots fired toward the homes of other officials or in the vicinity of their offices.

Police went to Martinez's home after he discovered what he thought was damage from gunfire heard in early December. Detectives said they located evidence of a shooting.

Martinez said in a statement he was grateful he and his family were safe.

"We have been working closely with the Albuquerque Police Department as they investigate this act of gun violence at our home," he said. "I share the anger of my fellow elected officials and all those who have been targeted by such senseless acts of violence."

Martinez, the former majority floor leader, will be in a new leadership role when the Democratic-led Legislature meets for a 60-day session beginning next week.

Public safety and gun control are expected to be among the top issues as the chorus of residents who don't feel safe in Albuquerque and elsewhere has reached a fever pitch.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said during a news conference there's a difference when elected officials are involved.

"These are individuals who participate in democracy, whether we agree with them or not, and that's why this act of violence I think has been so rattling for so many people," Keller said. "Again, regardless of their background or regardless of their belief ... those elected officials deserve to be able to do their job as part of American democracy without fear."

The first shootings targeted homes of county commissioners

The shootings began in early December when eight rounds were fired at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa, police said. Days later, someone shot at former Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O'Malley's home.

Technology that can detect the sound of gunfire also indicated shots in the vicinity of New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez's former campaign office. Police found no damage.

Multiple shots also were fired at the home of state Sen. Linda Lopez — a lead sponsor of a 2021 bill that reversed New Mexico's ban on most abortion procedures — and in a downtown area where state Sen. Moe Maestas' office is located. Maestas, an attorney, co-sponsored a bill last year to set new criminal penalties for threatening state and local judges. It didn't pass.

Both Democrat and Republican state lawmakers have called on the public to provide information that might help law enforcement.

The eruption of gunfire in Albuquerque on any given day is not unusual. The police department began using the ShotSpotter detection system in 2020 in areas where data showed violence was prevalent.

As of last October, police reported having nearly 9,000 ShotSpotter alerts since the beginning of 2022. Of those, the department said more than 1,200 helped lead to the identification of dozens suspects and victims.

Some have criticized reliance on the technology. A 2021 Associated Press investigation, based on a review of thousands of internal documents, confidential contracts and interviews with dozens of public defenders in communities where ShotSpotter has been deployed, identified a number of serious flaws in using the technology as evidentiary support for prosecutors.

Albuquerque police did not respond to a request Monday for updated information on the number of detections for the past year or the number of reports in which gunfire struck homes or businesses in the city.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press
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