New video shows what led up to BCSO’s first mask citation

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New video shows what led up to Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputies issuing their first mask citation. It turns out that initially, it had nothing to do with the public health order. Sheriff Manny Gonzales previously said it would be up to State Police to issue mask citations, but that all changed last week. “You live over here,” a deputy asked in the cell phone video. “It is getting late. Neighbors are probably concerned.”

Last Tuesday, deputies approached a man they said was acting suspicious in a northwest Albuquerque neighborhood. “What can we help you with today,” the deputy asked. “Did I ask for help,” the man responded. “No, but like I said, unless you live here, you really do not have any business being over here,” the deputy responded.

Deputies told 34-year-old Mario Chavez to leave, but Chavez wasn’t having it. “This is a public street,” Chavez said in the video. “I don’t have to go anywhere.”

“That is fine,” the deputy then said. “I have no legal authority to remove you as of this time.” Chavez responded, “I know you don’t.” Chavez went back and forth with deputies claiming he was just playing Pokemon Go. “I was sitting here playing Pokemon until you rolled up,” Chavez said.

However, deputies thought Chavez had other motives. “Are you just trying to incite some sort of police stuff with everything going on around the country right now,” the deputy asked. “I didn’t approach you guys,” Chavez said. “You guys approached me.”

According to the case report, there was a deputy working security at the home of Sheriff Manny Gonzales in the neighborhood. The deputy claimed that Chavez was taking videos of the sheriff’s house. “We know what house you are at,” the deputy said. “As we mentioned, it is a security concern.”

Then, seven minutes into the eight minute video, the officer brought up masks. “Where is your mask, by the way,” the deputy asked. “Isn’t it state law that you are supposed to have one or it is a $100 fine?”

“Write up a ticket then,” Chavez said. BCSO then handed down its first mask citation. “Okay, so I was detained in the back of a patrol car for 15 minutes,” Chavez said in the video. “I got a citation for not wearing a f—— mask.”

BCSO said Sheriff Gonzales was out of town at the time and unaware of the incident. He was in Washington D.C. for the announcement of Operation Legend. KRQE News 13 showed the video to the ACLU. ACLU released the following statement:

From this video, it seems as though the officer’s only motivation for issuing a mask citation was to retaliate against Mr. Chavez for refusing to leave the public street he was on. The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office should be focused on remedying its history of biased policing and instituting accountability measures for the department rather than engaging in punitive law enforcement practices.

Leon Howard, ACLU legal director

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