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The sheriff says the rally was one of the biggest events of his mayoral campaign so far – about 70 people, including children, had gathered to hear him speak Tuesday night at Revel Entertainment Center in Northeast Albuquerque.
Before the event was over, Manuel Gonzales III had been grilled by an agitator, someone had flown a drone with a dildo dangling beneath it next to the stage, and a man had landed a glancing blow on the sheriff's arm.
After the venue's owner grabbed the drone from the sky a man, later identified as 20-year-old Kaelan Ashby Dreyer, tried to get it back, according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court.
During an ensuing scuffle, deputies say, Dreyer was “swinging his balled up fist at Manuel Gonzales III” and yelling “he's a tyrant” and the Bernalillo County sheriff was struck in the arm.
Dreyer was booked into jail on charges of petty misdemeanor battery and misdemeanor resisting, evading or obstructing an officer.
The offending drone? Tagged into evidence.
Dreyer was released on his own recognizance.
In a press conference Wednesday, Gonzales said he believes Dreyer and his companions are “political operatives” and that “it was a coordinated effort, very intentional, and these people were trained.”
Gonzales has until June 19 to get enough signatures to be on the ballot.
“Those people were planted there,” Gonzales said. “They went there. They didn't go over there to have a civil discourse, they were there to disrupt. And they did act out that violence. So to me, it's very intentional.”
He said it was possible they were sent from the rival campaign of fellow Democrat and incumbent Mayor Tim Keller.
“It became so distracting from the sound and everything I couldn't really get my point across,” Gonzales said. “I was trying to answer one of the lady's questions that was with this group of four that were political operatives for somebody, I believe possibly the other campaign. So for me, I was surprised. And it was distracting.”
Keller's campaign condemned the stunt.
“By now people have seen the video where Manny was interrupted by a drone with an adult toy attached to it. No question it was disruptive, rude and immature,” said Keller campaign manager Neri Holguin. “We denounce demeaning antics and urge residents to participate in the political process in a respectful manner.”
The campaign vehemently denied any involvement.
“To suggest we were behind it is pathetic and the kind of desperation that has marked Manny's troubled campaign,” Holguin said.
Dreyer also denied working for Keller's campaign.
“Manny Gonzales is trying to associate me with Tim Keller or radical leftist behavior,” Dreyer told the Journal. “I'm not a fan of Tim Keller either and identify as libertarian.”
He did not wish to comment further.
Dreyer's three companions were not publicly identified.
Incident on video
Video of the event posted on Facebook shows a woman who identifies herself as a social worker asking the sheriff, who is running for mayor on a tough-on-crime platform, what he will do to make lives better for minorities if he's elected. The woman – holding a sign that says “the unsheltered need beds, the sick need meds, we have no need for more cops, guns and feds” – said the last year has shown that minority leaders should be listened to and that more should be done to increase the presence of social workers rather than police officers.
Then, as Gonzales started to answer her a drone bearing the sex toy buzzed toward the stage.
“Is that a dong on a drone?” a woman in the audience asks, as people giggle, murmur and glance around.
“We have a gentleman over here who I guess is trying to be cute,” Gonzales said on the video.
On Wednesday, Gonzales said since he was standing on a stage he could look out over the crowd and he spotted a man on the other side of a fence who he believes was operating the drone.
“There was nobody there (in the audience) that you could digitally see operating the drone,” Gonzales said. “But I saw him glancing over with a smirk on his face. And when I made eye contact with him, he kind of looked down. So that to me would indicate that he was the operator of the drone.”
The owner of Revel Entertainment Center yanked the flying object – toy first – to the ground. And Dreyer ran in to try to get it back. He was unsuccessful and deputies say he turned his attention on Gonzales.
“He tried to take a swing at me and he glanced across my arm,” Gonzales said. “He struck me and I just took a step back. It wasn't anything I was very concerned about. I've been in a lot worse situations”
The blows can't be seen on the video but the undersheriff and the venue's employees can be seen piling on top of Dreyer.
Undersheriff Sid Covington escorted Dreyer outside. According to the complaint, after being escorted outside Dreyer tried to run away, but Covington “once again took the subject to the floor and detained him, awaiting marked units.”
Dreyer was taken to the University of New Mexico Hospital to be checked for injuries and then cleared.
“He stated that he never intended to hit Manuel but was upset that Manuel was answering a question, from the crowd, in a disrespectful way,” the deputy wrote in the complaint. “He stated that he did ball his fist and was just going to swing them through the air and leave the premises.”
Gonzales urged the public to come forward with additional video of the incident.
Gonzales said the “guerrilla tactics” were disrespectful, embarrassing and insulting to him and his supporters.
“I understand the First Amendment and if you want to come to an event that we're hosting, you have the right to speak freely,” Gonzales said. “But at the point where you commit a crime, with the people that we have there, you're going to go to jail. So what I want to do is basically condemn all lawlessness at all these events, and know that we're not going to tolerate any of this.”
It's apparently not the first time this week a drone carrying a dildo has shown up at a political event.
Video posted on Twitter shows the self-described “Dongcopter” hovering outside Legacy Church during then-congressional candidate Mark Moores' visit last Sunday.
The Journal could not reach the owner of the account, but by Wednesday evening she appeared to be taking credit for the spectacle involving Gonzales. The cover photo had been changed to a screen shot of the previous night's event with the words “Dongcoptered” superimposed.