LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) – The man who police say admitted to starting Tuesday’s bosque fire near Los Lunas has a long history of criminal charges. However, it’s this arson case that’s keeping him behind bars, for now. People who know Johnathan Barnard say he’s homeless and has a mental illness and they’ve tried many times to get him help.
“When he did live with us, we tried everything we could: medication, doctors, hospitals, treatment centers, anything we could to help him. He was denied services every single time because he didn’t have the money,” said Kristina Walker, who has previously housed Barnard.
Valencia County deputies arrested Barnard on Wednesday. Officers said he was on the scene of the fire off Main Street, east of the Rio Grande. He reportedly admitted to starting the fire with a lighter, saying he “wanted to see if they could put it out.”
A search of his criminal history shows he has charges dating back to 2017. It was that year that he was accused of trying to strangle a corrections officer in the Bernalillo County Juvenile Detention Center. That case was later dismissed.
Then in October 2020, officials said he pulled a knife on someone, then threatened to stab a Los Lunas firefighter at the scene of a car crash. He’s charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and tampering with evidence.
In May of 2021, he was charged for hitting an Albuquerque Police officer in the face multiple times. Then a few days later, Los Lunas Police said he caused a mess at a Family Dollar store where he reportedly knocked over racks, shopping carts, and threw food on the floor.
Walker said she believes incidents like these will keep happening until more mental health services become available statewide.
“Until he gets treatment, this will happen again, and it’s so sad to know that he could’ve hurt himself or somebody else,” Walker explained.
Los Lunas Police say at Barnard’s preliminary hearing Wednesday for the arson charge, his probation stemming from that 2020 aggravated assault was revoked. He’s being held without bond in the Valencia County Detention Center.
Police said they feel their hands can be tied in cases involving repeat offenders because it’s up to the District Attorney’s Office to file motions to keep them locked up until trial. The Valencia County DA’s Office said it’s ultimately up to the courts.
Barnard’s next court appearance for the 2020 aggravated assault case is set for June 30. That’s when the defense could raise the issue of competency, which has been brought up in his other cases.