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Video shows tense arrest of Rio Arriba sheriff

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Police arrested Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan May 21 for failing to comply with a court-ordered warrant.

Now, lapel video of the arrest shows a tense situation between the Española Police Department, Taos County deputies called to help serve the warrant and the embattled sheriff.

The video shows Española police officers and Taos County deputies descending onto the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office, some wearing helmets and protective equipment. Soon after police arrived, Rio Arriba Undersheriff Martin Trujillo showed up at the office. Once told a warrant was being executed, he tried to enter the scene, but officers stopped him.

“You guys are (expletive) up, man,” Trujillo said.

Police soon detained Lujan, placing him in handcuffs, and kept him outside while deputies searched the building. Lujan frequently told officers that his handcuffs were too tight and asked that they be taken off.

Eventually, Española police detective Zachary Wright presented the warrant to Lujan and told him he needed to unlock his phone so officers could search it.

“I will if I get a chance to talk to my attorney,” Lujan said.

“It doesn’t work like that,” Wright responded. “This is not a negotiation.”

When Lujan repeated that he wanted to speak to his attorney, Wright told officers to take Lujan to jail for obstruction.

As he was being led away, Lujan tried to wriggle out of the grasp of Taos County deputies. Police eventually put him in a patrol car and later booked him on two counts of obstruction.

Afterward, Trujillo and Española Police Chief Roger Jimenez started arguing outside the office about the arrest.

Trujillo had called all Rio Arriba deputies to come to the scene; when they arrived, deputies were ordered to set up a security perimeter and draw their weapons.

Taos County Undersheriff Steve Miera said in a statement that his deputies responded by setting up their own security perimeter to protect other officers at the scene. A lapel camera shows a Taos County sniper looking through his scope at a group of officers. Miera said the sniper was observing the scene.

“There was no legitimate reason for such a response,” Miera wrote of Trujillo calling other deputies.

Eventually, the situation was defused during a tense discussion between Trujillo and Jimenez. Trujillo demanded that EPD officers leave the area.

Wright told Trujillo that Española police had the right to be in the area, because the office is within city limits.

“Shut up,” Trujillo said. “Shut up.”

Lujan was later taken to the Los Alamos County Detention Center, where he spent the night.

Police got a warrant for Lujan’s cellphone to search for any communications between Lujan and Philip Chacon, who was arrested by Española police on March 21 in connection with a stabbing.

Lujan had arrived at the scene – which had turned into a standoff between Chacon and a SWAT team – out of uniform and told officers to leave so he could arrest Chacon.

Jimenez alleged in a criminal complaint that Lujan had communicated with Chacon during the standoff and that Lujan showed up at the scene intoxicated.

Warrants have been executed for three of Lujan’s cellphones. He currently faces three separate charges of obstruction in 1st Judicial District Court.

Lujan has a hearing Wednesday, during which the court will review his conditions for release.


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