Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales is running his office like a mobster, retaliating against people in the department, and needs to be prosecuted and removed from office, the attorney who represents the family of a man who was fatally shot last year by a sheriff's deputy said Thursday.
The attorney, Sam Bregman, said that Gonzales has opened an internal affairs investigation into a deputy who testified unfavorably about Gonzales and the BCSO during a deposition in a wrongful death lawsuit brought against the department by the dead man's family.
And Bregman has sent a letter to New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, asking him to investigate Gonzales and remove him from office.
“This is classic intimidation and retaliation towards a witness for his sworn testimony,” Bregman said in a news release. “Sheriff Gonzales is running the department like it's a mob family. If you testify against the boss, you will pay the price. Sheriff Gonzales has crossed the line. He is now acting like a criminal himself.”
Bregman represents Shawntay Ortiz, who has a 4-year-old son with Martin Jim, in a wrongful death lawsuit against the sheriff's department and Gonzales. Jim was a passenger in a truck that had been reported stolen when deputy Joshua Mora opened fire on it after a chase last November. Jim, and the driver Isaac Padilla, were killed.
In a news release, Bregman said that Sheriff's Deputy Leonard Armijo testified during a deposition in the case and that his testimony was unfavorable toward the sheriff's department and Gonzales.
“During his [Armijo's] deposition, at which Sheriff Gonzales was in attendance, Deputy Armijo's sworn testimony was not at all favorable for the Sheriff or his department,” Bregman said. “And now, because of that testimony Sheriff Gonzales is doling out punishment in the form of an Internal Affairs complaint against Armijo.”
In his letter to Balderas, Bregman said that Gonzales initiated the IA complaint against Armijo simply because he didn't like the deputy's testimony during the deposition.
“We have now been informed that Sheriff Gonzales has launched an internal affairs complaint against Deputy Armijo for the specific allegation that he did not like the way Deputy Armijo answered the questions put forth to him during his deposition,” Bregman's letter to Gonzales said.
“The conduct by the Sheriff is meant to intimidate and retaliate against Deputy Armijo in a case in which he is a witness. This conduct by Sheriff Gonzales is not only reprehensible, it is illegal.”