UPDATE 1:30 p.m. – Sigala due to appear in court this afternoon. Click for details.
Joey Sigala, who stepped down recently as president of the Albuquerque police union, was picked up by police Wednesday evening a few hours after his wife called 911 to report that he had beaten her, officials said.
Police have been called to deal with arguments between the two before, but it is unclear whether any of those incidents involved violence, Police Chief Ray Schultz said.
Sigala, 32, has been at the center of controversy lately, abruptly resigning in March as head of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association amid allegations of misspending and revelations that the union paid up to $500 to officers involved in shootings. State Police are investigating allegations of embezzlement at the union.
Deputy Police Chief Paul Feist said Sigala, an 8-year APD veteran, has been placed on paid leave pending the outcome of the investigation into Wednesday’s incident.
Schultz said Ashley Sigala called 911 from a residence in Northwest Albuquerque shortly after 3 p.m. Wednesday to say her husband had beaten her.
“According to witnesses, she was battered,” he said.
When officers arrived at the residence, which is not the Sigalas’ home, Joey Sigala was gone, the chief said.
Ashley Sigala told officers her husband had stolen her credit cards and some cash and had physically assaulted her, Feist said. The altercation began inside the home and spilled out into the front yard.
Feist said Ashley Sigala suffered “minor physical injuries” and was not taken to the hospital. He said she was given a domestic violence victim’s packet and access to an advocate.
Police began a search for Sigala, who had just finished his shift with the APD DWI seizure unit and was armed with his duty weapon and was wearing a partial uniform at the time of the altercation. Feist said Sigala was driving his city issued unmarked police car.
A few hours later, Schultz said, officers picked him up at his parents’ home and took him to the APD Northwest Substation near Cibola High School.
Feist said Sigala was cooperative when officers arrived.
Sigala was to be booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center on domestic violence charges, including aggravated burglary and false imprisonment, Feist said.
Schultz said there is some history of arguments between the Sigalas documented in APD reports. He said he wasn’t aware of a history of violence.
“I think they live in Rio Rancho, and I think there was some stuff up there,” he said. “But I would have to do some research. I don’t know. Obviously, we’ll have to look and see.”
A Journal story published in March revealed that the police union had paid a total of more than $10,000 to 20 officers involved in shootings, dating to the start of 2010. In all, 23 APD officers shot people during 20 incidents last year and the year before.
Sigala, who was elected union president in March 2009, and Felipe Garcia, who took office in the summer of 2010 as vice president, said in a March statement that the payments were to cover some expenses for officers who had been involved in “critical incidents” and their families “to find a place to have some privacy and time to decompress outside the Albuquerque area.”
Before he resigned, Sigala vowed to continue the practice despite calls to end it by Mayor Richard Berry and several city councilors.
Garcia resigned at the same time as Sigala, and their successors announced shortly thereafter that the APOA would stop making direct payments to officers involved in shootings, but would reimburse them for hotel stays and other expenses.
Financial questions also arose following a February email from the APOA’s attorney, Fred Mowrer. It stated that $259,000 in dues had been spent during the past two years, much of it on unspecified “union work” and salaries for Sigala, Garcia and others.
Revelations during union meetings after Mowrer’s email — including that Garcia and Sigala paid themselves more in dues-funded salaries than they had previously acknowledged and that Ashley Sigala had been paid about $6,000 for work on “special projects” — prompted members to seek an outside audit. The union has not yet selected a firm to conduct the audit.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal