A man convicted of shooting a Bernalillo County deputy may catch another big break, and this time, the District Attorney’s office says deputies themselves are to blame.
“They didn’t do a complete job,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney with the Bernalillo County DA’s office, Thomas Outler.
Just before midnight last Thursday, deputies say William Westfall admitted to crashing a motorcycle through a fence near Bridge and Atrisco.
The name may sound familiar to Albuquerque residents. In 2011, Westfall was convicted of shooting a Bernalillo County deputy. The deputy was trying to arrest the known gang member and suspected heroin dealer William Westfall during a SWAT situation in 2010.
Westfall got off with just a three-year sentence. According to court records, he’s stayed out of trouble since he was released.
After the crash last week, deputies say Westfall fled and met up with three other men in an SUV at a church just a quarter mile away. Inside the SUV, deputies say they found six guns.
“I believe what concerned them was the presence of so many firearms, and somebody that they did know from their access to court records was a felon,” said Outer.
But this is when Outler says the investigation starts to fall apart. According to the criminal complaint, he says it’s not even clear why the SUV was searched or if any permission was given to search the vehicle.
“There’s no evidence as to why that happened, what the reasonable basis was for that seizure. So, that’s a question. That’s a problem,” said Outler.
Outler also says deputies didn’t prove in their criminal complaint that any of the guns were Westfall’s.
“Something has to show that he knew about the guns and show that it was available,” said Outler.
Outler also says according to the criminal complaint, deputies didn’t try to find out if a motorcycle jacket that was hiding two of the guns even belonged to Westfall.
“If they had been able to show this was Mr. Westfall’s jacket, that would’ve been sufficient,” said Outler.
Outler says the deputies “disappointing” investigation is the reason they couldn’t hold Westfall behind bars until trial. Even worse, it’s the reason they may have to drop “felon in possession of a firearm” charge against him altogether.
“The only thing this criminal complaint proves is that he fled the scene of an accident,” said Outler.
Outler says this is a perfect example of why officers need more training.
When asked if it’s disappointing to know that these guns may have belonged to a convicted felon who shot a police officer, and he may walk away from this, Outler replied, “It is. It’s why we all need to get on the same page about how to investigate, write up and prosecute these cases.”
There is a chance this case could be saved. The DA’s office has asked BCSO for any additional information they may have to prove Westfall was in possession of the guns.
BCSO responded saying their detectives are further investigating the case and will resubmit it to the DA’s office.