Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
The district attorney for the 7th Judicial District has decided not to prosecute a Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed two men following the pursuit of a stolen truck in November 2017.
After reviewing the high-profile case for more than a year, District Attorney Clint Wellborn on March 28 sent a letter to the sheriff’s office announcing his decision not to file criminal charges against Deputy Joshua Mora. Wellborn was appointed to oversee the investigation because the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Bernalillo County had a conflict of interest.
While the shooting has not resulted in criminal charges, it has been the subject of three civil lawsuits, two of which have already been settled with $1.8 million in payments to the deceased men’s families and other passengers in the truck.
“After reviewing all materials provided, including materials and opinions from experts in the civil litigation, it was mutually agreed that based on the totality of facts and circumstances as they occurred, that the State would be unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the shooting of Isaac Padilla was not justified,” Wellborn wrote in the letter, referring to the team of attorneys and investigators who reviewed the shooting. “As a result of this determination regarding the shooting of Mr. Padilla it was also determined we would likewise be unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the shooting of Martin Jim was not justified.”
Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales praised the decision not to pursue charges.
“This is great news for the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office,” he said. “I was always confident that District Attorney Wellborn would affirm my belief the facts did not justify criminal charges against Deputy Joshua Mora. After the District Attorney’s extensive review of all of the evidence and his office’s supplemental investigation, DA Wellborn made the right legal and ethical decision.”
Luis Robles, who represented Mora and the county in civil cases related to the shooting, said he was not surprised Wellborn declined to prosecute his client.
“There is nothing about this case that would suggest that criminal charges are warranted,” Robles said. “Nothing that would suggest that criminal charges should have been brought. DA Wellborn did the right thing.”
The U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico has also reviewed evidence in the case – including a reconstruction of the shooting done by the New Mexico State Police – and decided not to open a federal criminal investigation.
Jim, 25, was a backseat passenger in a stolen truck when the driver, 23-year-old Padilla, led deputies on a chase from one side of Albuquerque to the other. Near Glenrio and Coors NW, deputies used a “pursuit intervention technique” and the truck came to a stop.
Sheriff Gonzales has said Mora – the son of Undersheriff Rudy Mora – opened fire on the truck because Padilla revved the engine and he believed Padilla was going to run his sergeant over.
Mora fired seven times, killing Padilla and Jim. Two other passengers were not hit.
Attorney Sam Bregman, who is representing the two passengers and the families of Jim and Padilla in state and federal civil lawsuits, said he had not yet been told that Wellborn decided not to prosecute Deputy Mora.
“Obviously we’re disappointed in the decision made by that prosecutor,” he told the Journal. “We believe the facts support a prosecution for murder.”
Bernalillo County has already agreed to pay $1.8 million to settle some of the claims raised in two civil lawsuits – one filed in federal court and one in district court.
A lawsuit filed by Padilla’s family in federal court was settled for $1 million, and a lawsuit filed in state court was settled for $800,000. The state settlement will be divided among all four plaintiffs, with Jim’s family receiving $400,000, Padilla’s family getting $360,000, and the two other passengers receiving $20,000.
A third lawsuit, filed in federal court by Jim’s family, is still pending.
“We will continue our case in federal court and continue to hope and work toward the idea that Martin Jim’s family deserves justice,” Bregman said. “And we will hopefully get this matter in front of a jury and let a jury decide if what Deputy Mora did was justified.”