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DA drops charges, but APD will proceed with case

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office has dismissed the case against a man charged with misdemeanor abandonment or cruelty to a child for being armed and taking his son and his girlfriend’s children to a protest Downtown two months ago.

But the Albuquerque Police Department still plans to prosecute the case, according to a spokesman.

The events surrounding the charges led to about 17 officers resigning from the Emergency Response Team – which staffs protests – reportedly because they were angry about being “second-guessed” when they let 26-year-old Deyontae Williams go initially.

On April 11, hundreds of counterprotesters had gathered at the plaza in response to rumors that the white supremacist group the Proud Boys planned to hold a rally. The Proud Boys didn’t show up, but Williams, his girlfriend and their three children – a baby, a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old – did. Williams was carrying a rifle, a handgun and a sign that said “All guns matter,” sparking the crowd’s ire. About 100 protesters surrounded him, according to a criminal complaint.

Police determined that the family – especially the minors – were in danger, and they removed them from the crowd.

“A reasonable fear that the man would utilize the firearms in order to protect the children was seen as imminent,” an officer wrote in the complaint.

An incident commander had ordered that Williams be detained at the scene, but ERT officers released him without citing or identifying him, said Gilbert Gallegos, an APD spokesman. Gallegos said a summons was issued for Williams later that evening and an internal investigation was launched due to concerns that Williams – an armed individual — had been given preferential treatment. A sergeant was put on leave.

An initial review showed no preferential treatment, Gallegos said, and the sergeant was returned to duty. But more than a dozen officers decided to leave the unit. They are still with APD.

In an interview Thursday, Williams said he never got the summons in the mail. He said he had gone to the protest to educate people about Second Amendment rights and to defend others if “something bad were to happen.”

“I would never place my child or anybody else’s kids in any danger,” Williams said. “I was very fully aware of what I was doing that day. I just wanted to go out and stand there with everybody and protest … I wanted to exercise my first and my second amendment activities.”

Lauren Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office, said that misdemeanor violations are usually prosecuted by police officers but this case was mistakenly referred to the DA.

“Rather than withdraw from the case we made the decision to dismiss it and allow the Albuquerque Police Department to proceed with the prosecution without jeopardizing any time limitation for bringing the case to trial,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “The dismissal we filed was executed without prejudice to the case and will enable APD to bring the matter forward at their discretion.”

Gallegos said Thursday that APD will move forward with prosecution but he doesn’t have a timeline for the case.

Williams’s attorney, Thomas Grover, said “this thing is hinky every which way you go about it.”

“Within the four corners of the complaint there is nothing that supports even a whiff that Mr. Williams violated this code,” Grover said.

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