Sheriff accused of interfering in SWAT standoff is arrested
ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico sheriff suspected of showing up under the influence of alcohol to a SWAT standoff and trying to order officers away was arrested Thursday, authorities said.
Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan initially refused to comply with the arrest and was taken from his office in handcuffs by Española police officers and Taos County deputies, Española police Sgt. Jeremy Apodaca told the Albuquerque Journal.
Court records show Lujan has been charged with resisting, evading or obstructing an officer, a felony. He remained in custody, Apodaca said.
A criminal complaint filed in March said Lujan, in plainclothes, attempted to take over the scene involving a barricaded subject in Española.
The complaint, written by interim Española police Chief Roger Jimenez, said Lujan refused to leave, despite officers’ commands. The complaint also says he smelled like alcohol and appeared to have trouble keeping his balance.
Lujan told Jimenez he had been communicating with Phillip Chacon, the target of the SWAT standoff who had barricaded himself inside his home while officers tried to serve an arrest warrant, according to the criminal complaint.
Last week, Española police seized Lujan’s cellphones using a search warrant at the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office. Ninth Judicial District Attorney Andrea Reeb said there was “some difficulty” obtaining the phones and that she made a call to Lujan’s attorney, Nathaniel Thompkins, to say Lujan needed to turn over the devices.
Thompkins did not immediately return a phone message left Thursday by The Associated Press.
It’s not the first time a Rio Arriba County sheriff has faced problems with the law.
Former Sheriff Thomas Rodella was convicted of brandishing a firearm and deprivation of rights. Prosecutors say he pulled a gun on motorist Michael Tafoya and struck him in the face with his badge during a 2014 traffic stop because Tafoya cut him off in traffic.
Rodella was sentenced in 2015 to 10 years in federal prison.