Albuquerque Police Pursues Case Against Armed Protester Even After DA Dismisses Charges

(AP Photo/Mary Hudetz, File)

I’ve been covering Second Amendment issues for almost twenty years now, but I’ve never run across a case as strange as one playing out in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the moment.

Back in April, Deyontae Williams took his son and his girlfriend’s children to a protest in downtown Albuquerque where the Proud Boys were rumored to be holding a rally. While the Proud Boys never showed up, hundreds of counter-protesters did, and Williams, his girlfriend, and their children were among them. Williams also brought along a legally-owned rifle and pistol, along with a sign that read “All Guns Matter,” which apparently triggered some of the protesters in attendance.

Fearing for the family’s safety, and worried that Williams would have to use one of his firearms in self-defense, police removed the adults and children from the fray. That should have been the end of it, but a supervisor with the Albuquerque Police then demanded that Williams be arrested. An officer with the department’s Emergency Response Team declined to do so, letting him go instead. Later that evening, however, the APD issued a summons for Williams on a misdemeanor charge of abandonment or cruelty to a child. What’s more, the sergeant who’d let Williams go was suspended by the police department, which resulted in all 17 Albuquerque police officers assigned to the ERT to resign their position on the team.

Last week, the local District Attorney dismissed the charges against Williams, but in a bizarre twist the Albuquerque Police Department is still pursuing the case against the local Second Amendment activist.

In an interview Thursday, Williams said he never got the summons in the mail. He said he had gone to the protest to educate people about Second Amendment rights and to defend others if “something bad were to happen.”

“I would never place my child or anybody else’s kids in any danger,” Williams said. “I was very fully aware of what I was doing that day. I just wanted to go out and stand there with everybody and protest … I wanted to exercise my first and my second amendment activities.”

Lauren Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office, said that misdemeanor violations are usually prosecuted by police officers but this case was mistakenly referred to the DA.

“Rather than withdraw from the case we made the decision to dismiss it and allow the Albuquerque Police Department to proceed with the prosecution without jeopardizing any time limitation for bringing the case to trial,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “The dismissal we filed was executed without prejudice to the case and will enable APD to bring the matter forward at their discretion.”

Gallegos said Thursday that APD will move forward with prosecution but he doesn’t have a timeline for the case.

Williams’s attorney, Thomas Grover, said “this thing is hinky every which way you go about it.”

“Within the four corners of the complaint there is nothing that supports even a whiff that Mr. Williams violated this code,” Grover said.

It sure looks like the top brass of the Albuquerque Police Department are trying to chill Williams’ First and Second Amendment rights; seeking to make an example out of him in an attempt to dissuade others to leave their guns behind when they go protest. Williams doesn’t have any issue with any of the officers he encountered on April 11th, but wonders why the police department is trying to turn him into a criminal.

“Those men, they didn’t do anything wrong especially that sergeant, he did what he was supposed to do,” Williams said. “He swore an oath to the constitution and wanted to help me and saw I did anything wrong, and was very good to me and my family.”

Williams said the day of the protest, APD did everything right.

But charging him after the fact was a violation of his constitutional rights.

“The sergeant was upholding the constitution doing what he swore an oath to do,” Williams said. ”He let me go because he didn’t see any issues that I had done, he didn’t see that I had committed any crimes.”

Williams said the officers should be commended for how they treated him and his family.

And those at the Albuquerque Police Department pursuing criminal charges against Williams should be roundly criticized.

Look, you may or may not agree with Williams’ decision to bring kids to a protest, but accusing him of cruelty to a child because he did so is asinine, and it sounds like the officers policing the protest thought so as well. It’s hard to view the continued prosecution of Williams as anything other than anti-gun persecution on the part of those in charge of the Albuquerque police, and I hope that the 2A activist not only takes his case all the way to trial, but considers filing suit against the APD if and when he’s acquitted of the misdemeanor charge by a jury of his peers.