Rio Arriba County sheriff arrested for not complying with search warrant


ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (KRQE) – Española Police arrested the Rio Arriba County Sheriff on Thursday after, they say, he would not comply with a search warrant for his phone. Española Police say they had a search warrant to get Sheriff James Lujan to unlock his cell phone and hand it over. A criminal complaint states that the sheriff said he wanted to talk to his attorney instead, so police arrested him.

“Wow, I’m handcuffed,” Sheriff Lujan told officers upon his arrest. “You tell me to do something. I can’t do nothing because I’m handcuffed. I asked for my attorney.”

The Northern New Mexico Independent shared its video of the Thursday morning arrest at the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office with KRQE News 13.

Española Police say they had a warrant for Sheriff Lujan’s cell phone because they say it may have evidence of him interfering with criminal cases, involving Española City Councilor John Vigil and a man with a history of arrests in Española, Phillip Chacon.

KRQE News 13 asked Sheriff Lujan’s defense attorney about it. “I think the search warrant is incorrect and possibly invalid, but we’ll have to take that up with the court,” said Defense Attorney Nathaniel Thompkins.

Police showed up at the Sheriff’s Office last week with search warrants for Lujan’s work and personal cell phones. He accused them of treating him unfairly. “This is harassment and retaliation because I told the city council that you shouldn’t be the chief,” he can be heard saying on police lapel video.

Sheriff Lujan eventually gave police two phones, but police later noticed he did not give them his iPhone, which he is seen using in lapel video from Española Police scenes where the sheriff is accused of trying to take over or interfere.

In police lapel video from March, for example, the sheriff can be seen with an iPhone on the scene of an Española Police SWAT situation. Police were trying to arrest Chacon for a probation violation when, they say, the sheriff showed up in plain clothes, smelling of alcohol, distracting officers and refusing to leave.

That got him charged with resisting, evading or obstructing an officer, and he picked up two more of those charges for Thursday’s incident.

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