LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) – He’s been in and out of jail again and again for stolen cars. In one case, he simply let himself out of a state police holding cell, escaping in handcuffs. Now, as KRQE News 13 investigative reporter Gabrielle Burkhart found, this repeat offender is back in trouble and back out on the streets again.
“Hands up!” A deputy shouted at a suspect last month. “I’m just picking up my pants, man,” the suspect replied.
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Video from Valencia County Sheriff’s deputies shows them responding to a call last month from a concerned neighbor near Los Chavez, saying a man was rummaging around in someone else’s car and home. Deputies found the man crouching down inside of someone else’s vehicle on the property.
“I just went for a walk,” the man told deputies. “Yeah, whose car is that?” The deputy asked. “I don’t know, I was just sitting in there, just curious, bro,” the man replied.
Deputies later identified him as Jesus Jimenez, 40, and ran his name. That’s when they found a warrant for his arrest for failing to appear to a court hearing in a case KRQE Investigates highlighted in September.
A New Mexico State Police officer booked Jimenez after he was caught driving a stolen truck last year. Then, cameras captured Jimenez’s every move as he went ahead and let himself out, slipping out of his handcuffs and escaping from the State Police station in Los Lunas.
When officers found him, they told his wife, “Yeah, he’s going to jail for a while.” But court records show he was released two weeks later and failed to appear for a court hearing in December.
Then, just last month, Jimenez had another run-in with deputies in Valencia County.
“Yeah, my wife was cleaning house and she’s all, “Where you going?” I said, ‘I’m going for a walk,” Jimenez told deputies. “She was mopping the floors, and I just didn’t want to be in her way. I went for a walk. That was it, I was curious.”
He said the house looked quote “Old school,” and wanted to check it out. “Just curious. I like old-school stuff, you know?” Jimenez said.
Deputies booked him on the outstanding warrant and a new charge for criminal trespass. Days later, a Valencia County District Court Judge signed off on his release to pretrial services.
A broken system?
When asked if it’s frustrating to rearrest these same individuals who don’t appear to respect the law, Lt. Joseph Rowland with the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office said, “It’s discouraging, to say the least.”
“I believe our deputies here at the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office work diligently on their caseloads, on their investigations,” Lt. Rowland explained. “To repeatedly see these cases that are dismissed or the offenders are right back out on our streets becomes very frustrating to our officers who have expressed that frustration with us.”
Lt. Rowland said the system is broken, and especially isn’t working for victims. “It’s really baffling to the victims and the folks in our community how this is a repetitive process where these would appear to be career criminals immediately get released or aren’t held,” he said.
Jimenez’s record includes the police station escape from last year caught on camera. Plus, he’s been caught more than once in possession of stolen vehicles.
“I didn’t take anything, I don’t have anything,” Jimenez told deputies during his most recent arrest. In that case, deputies couldn’t prove he’d planned to steal the car he was found in, since an astute neighbor called to report him rummaging around on the property.
However, catching and releasing Jimenez again and again speaks to a bigger problem, Lt. Rowland said.
What are the consequences?
“I don’t want to see law enforcement pointing fingers at judges, judges pointing fingers at DA’s office, DA’s office pointing fingers at legislation,” Lt. Rowland explained. “This is not helpful to do that type of behavior. We are a team, all of us within the judicial system, seeking justice. We have to work as a team. I think we could do better – as a team.”
Jimenez’s record does not include so-called “violent” offenses. However, Lt. Rowland also spoke to the problem of repeat property crime offenders.
“It just takes a long period of time for the consequences in the current system to fall down on the criminal,” explained Lt. Rowland. “But when that happens, sometimes they become desperate and violence is displayed.”
A Deputy District Attorney with the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s office told KRQE that the prosecutor in Jimenez’s case filed a verbal motion for the judge to revoke his conditions of release after his most recent violation. The judge decided to release him to Pretrial Services.
KRQE News 13 called Valencia County District Court Judge Cindy Mercer to ask why Jimenez was not kept in custody this time. News 13 was told judges are not allowed to comment on cases.