Democrats in New Mexico are advancing a number of anti-gun bills, including a two-week waiting period for all gun sales and legislation to ban so-called assault weapons; targeting the state’s legal gun owners while largely ignoring a huge problem with the state’s judiciary; namely, a troubling tendency to allow suspects accused of violent crimes to return to the street despite being considered a danger to the community, with the false promise to the public that they’ll be safe because the suspects are constantly being monitored electronically.
Despite several high-profile misfires over the past few months that have led to violent, repeat offenders escaping custody, the Democratic majority seems strangely uninterested in the issue, choosing instead to focus their attention on responsible gun owners and Second Amendment advocates. The latest case involves a murder suspect named Joe Armstrong, who was arrested back in December and charged with the shooting death of Raymond Aviles in Albuquerque last August. Despite the seriousness of the charges against him, as well as the fact that Anderson had previously been sentenced to seven years in prison in 2010 for the killing of Vicente Sanchez at a party, a judge refused to keep Anderson behind bars until his trial on murder charges could take place.
The judge determined that although Anderson presented a danger to the community, the danger could be mitigated though conditions of release.
According to the judge’s ruling, the decision was based on Anderson’s compliance with conditions of release and probation in separate cases.
Anderson was ordered to be released Jan. 11 on “zero-tolerance” conditions, including having an ankle monitor, according to court records.
Less than a month later, on February 7th, authorities received an alert that Anderson’s GPS monitoring device had been cut off and left near a highway. By the time police arrived Anderson was long gone, of course, and managed to escape capture for several weeks before he was spotted driving a stolen car and taken into custody last Friday.
Sadly, this isn’t uncommon in New Mexico. Criminal suspects are routinely released on GPS monitoring, even when they’re facing murder charges, and it’s become almost as common to see stories about suspects cutting off their monitoring devices and going on to commit more crimes. Here’s one report from Albuquerque news station KOB from last March.
Albuquerque police are chasing down yet another suspect released on GPS monitoring. This time, Nathanael Neal was placed in a home arrest program with one of those monitors.
But not even a month in, officials were notified he removed the ankle device.
APD released the following statement in response:
“This is another example of an offender committing property crimes while in possession of firearms. It’s even more concerning that Mr. Neal cut off his ankle monitor and he is on the run. We need to hold offenders who use guns accountable before they shoot or kill someone while committing a crime.”
Anderson isn’t even the first murder suspect to allegedly cut off his monitoring device. Back in 2021 a suspect by the name of Yonnis Abreu managed to elude authorities for over a month after removing his ankle monitor. That incident was embarrassing enough to the state’s judiciary that new measures were announced that would supposedly guarantee GPS devices were actually being monitored 24/7. Even if that is happening, it’s clearly not enough to prevent Anderson and others from slipping their electronic bonds (and the long arm of the law) for weeks or months on end.
Those accused of a crime have their rights too, of course, and not every criminal defendant can or should be held behind bars until their trial arrives. But it’s pretty evident that New Mexico’s current system isn’t working to keep those who pose a threat to the public at large in custody or even monitored after their release, and yet the Democratic majority in Santa Fe is far more interested in crafting a host of new criminal offenses targeting the Second Amendment rights of residents than reigning in judges who are setting suspects accused of serious and violent offenses free on bond despite their risk to the community. It’s no wonder that violent crime keeps going up in New Mexico, and as long as lawmakers view responsible gun owners as the biggest threat to public safety I doubt that’s going to change.