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BCSO, federal agents nab 22 during Operation Legend

Authorities inventory guns, drugs and cash following a traffic stop at Pennsylvania and Central NE on Saturday. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Deputies with the gang unit and federal agents teamed up as part of Operation Legend to target crime across the city Saturday afternoon, according to the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office.

“This operation has everything to do with Operation Legend,” Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III said, flanked by a crowd of deputies peppered with federal agents. “This operation is for one purpose and one purpose only: to take violent criminals off the streets of Albuquerque. … It’s not anything other than that.”

Gonzales said members of BCSO’s Gang Recognition and Intelligence Patrol, U.S. Marshals and Homeland Security Investigations served federal and local warrants on “violent offenders.”

On Sunday night, BCSO posted on social media that 14 felony arrests and eight misdemeanor arrests were made during Saturday’s operation. Authorities recovered two stolen guns, one stolen vehicle and a small amount of drugs.

Most of the arrests were for warrants, according to BCSO, but there were arrests for possession of a controlled substance, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, resisting or evading an officer and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

“We are frustrated to some degree with what’s going on with the criminal justice system here in New Mexico so we have to take another approach and this is the right approach,” Gonzales said.

BCSO vehicles could be seen pulling over residents Saturday afternoon – including at least one bicyclist – and making arrests in the International District. In one bust, the task force photographed what looked like a container of marijuana, cash and handguns on the hood of a car they had stopped near Central and Louisiana.

Since being announced last month by U.S. Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump, Operation Legend has sparked protests and concerns from some local leaders about federal authorities overstepping their bounds. But Department of Justice officials have pushed back on those claims, saying the initiative is a continuation of an earlier endeavor, Operation Relentless Pursuit, that was put on hold due to the pandemic.

According to the DOJ, Operation Legend involves more than 25 federal officers coming to town to combat violent crime, but it is unclear how many participated in Saturday’s operation.

During the news conference, a van of people drove in circles yelling “Black Lives Matter,” and Gonzales said they are taking “extra precautions” to keep deputies, the public and the media safe after instances of protesters showing up – something the sheriff said happened during the arrest of a suspect in the high-profile Jacqueline Vigil homicide case.

“They were very organized. They were showing up almost immediately at the crime scene. It poses a threat to our deputies,” he said. “There’s a place for that. We don’t facilitate protests – I believe the city does. We don’t.”

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