ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The City of Albuquerque is calling out Bernalillo County’s government, accusing the jail of failing to book some of APD’s arrested suspect at MDC.
Clearly frustrated with the county, Mayor Tim Keller accused MDC of putting the community and police officers in danger because of the jail’s apparent refusal to book some inmates over health risks and capacity concerns.
“We need our jail to take our prisoners, that is their job,” said Mayor Tim Keller during the city’s Thursday COVID-19 news briefing. “Everyone as a job to do and this kind of stuff is very dangerous to the public.” Mayor Keller says the problem started in January 2020 with multiple arrestees being refused entry into MDC for allegedly health issues.
The issues came to a head on April 8 after APD arrested a man named Joseph Vasquez. Vasquez was accused of swinging a knife at two people near the Albuquerque Aquarium near Central and New York.
According to a criminal complaint, officers first took Vasquez to Lovelace Hospital because he had a cough and said he thought he had a fever. Doctors at the hospital started the process of a COVID-19 test, but as the results wouldn’t be available for at least another day, the hospital discharged Vasquez, telling officers he was healthy enough to go to jail.
APS says MDC refused to book Vasquez because he needed to be quarantined in the jails in the COVID-19 pod which was already full. APD says it was forced to release Vasquez even though he had pending assault and drug charges, an additional warrant for drug crimes and a history of prior felony arrests.
Vasquez was eventually arrested two days later on April 10 after his COVID-19 test came back negative.
Now ten days after Vasquez’s initial attempted booking into MDC, the county still hasn’t responded to the city about how to prevent something similar from happening again. Albuquerque Police Chief Mike Geier wrote a letter about the incident to Bernalillo County Manager Julie Morgas-Baca.
“Those (arrestees) need to be accepted and we are absolutely willing to help in any way we can to provide adequate safety measures for those individuals but we cannot keep them in the back of a police car and we cannot, we should not release them back into the public,” Keller said.
A Bernalillo County spokeswoman declined a request for an interview on the topic Thursday, but provided a statement saying the county is working on responding to the city.
“The county is finalizing a formal response to APD and Mayor Keller regarding their MDC concerns. The community and media will also receive an update at the appropriate time.”Tia Bland, spokeswoman for Bernalillo County.
MDC is also getting ready to change leadership A new director is expected to take over the facility in May.
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