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Rio Arriba County sheriff arrested again

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan

SANTA FE – For the second time in two weeks, Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan has sat with his hands cuffed in the back of a patrol car after he was arrested Thursday afternoon.

However, this time Lujan faces two felony charges – harboring or aiding a felon and threatening a witness – which are fourth- and third-degree felonies, respectively.

A warrant for Lujan’s arrest was signed by Los Alamos Magistrate Court Judge Pat Casados earlier in the morning, based on a criminal complaint filed by Adriana Muñoz, special investigator for the 9th Judicial District Court.

The charges stem from a 2017 incident in which Lujan is accused of helping former Española city councilor Phillip Chacon escape from the Española Police Department, according to an affidavit filed in Rio Arriba Magistrate Court.

On March 14, 2017, Chacon became involved in a high-speed chase with Española police officers, from whom he escaped. An arrest warrant was soon issued for Chacon.

Former RASO deputy Cody Lattin told investigators he heard the chase over the radio and soon informed Lujan about it face to face. Lujan then received a phone call from Chacon, after which Lujan and Lattin drove to Chacon’s home.

“Officer Lattin saw Sheriff Lujan instruct Phillip to gather some belongings,” the affidavit states. “Officer Lattin last saw Sheriff Lujan leave in his patrol unit with Phillip Chacon.”

Ninth Judicial District Attorney Andrea Reeb, who Attorney General Hector Balderas assigned to prosecute Lujan, said knowingly helping someone escape police capture is a crime.

Lattin told investigators Lujan told him not to tell anyone about Chacon and that he feared Lujan would fire him if he did. Reeb said this is also a crime.

The affidavit includes other witnesses.

Deputy Ernest Vigil said he drove to Chacon’s house to drop off a restraining order and saw Lujan near the front door. Dispatcher Alejandro de la Rosa stated Lujan had called him demanding to know all information about the chase involving Chacon and told de la Rosa not to say anything. A letter from Lujan to Española City Councilor Peggy Sue Martinez acknowledges he had called de la Rosa and later confronted him because he thought the dispatcher had leaked information about Chacon.

In March, Lujan arrived out of uniform to a standoff between officers and Chacon, who was a suspect in a stabbing case, where he attempted to tell officers to leave. Española Police Chief Roger Jimenez alleged Lujan did this to allow Chacon to escape.

In a previous criminal complaint, Jimenez also mentioned the incident at the center of Thursday’s arrest.

“There were previous allegations that Sheriff Lujan had aided Mr. Chacon in a previous incident, fleeing the state in an attempt to escape capture,” he stated.

Española police arrested Lujan May 21 for failing to comply with a warrant for his iPhone, which Jimenez said was used to contact Chacon during the March incident.

Lujan was released from Los Alamos County Detention Center Thursday and will be arraigned Monday morning.


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