Attorney General goes after Lea County sheriff for defying state’s health order

New Mexico

HOBBS, N.M. (KRQE) – The New Mexico Attorney General is going after the Lea County Sheriff and his department for not enforcing the state’s current health order and their own deputies violating it. In a new court filing his office accuses the sheriff of “requiring” restaurants to open so his deputies can eat inside but many are defending the sheriff’s department.

Lea County residents are standing by their sheriff Corey Helton after the AG’s Office issued a writ of mandamus. It cites this incident captured in a picture posted to Facebook showing his deputies eating indoors at Casey’s Restaurant in Hobbs. It was posted just days after their food service permit was suspended for not following Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s current health order. K.T. Manis, the spokesperson for Casey’s Restaurant feels the governor is targeting them.

“Anyone who stands in defiance to the governor I feel like has been harassed over the past two to three weeks especially our restaurants,” said Manis.

The AG is asking the state Supreme Court to force the Lea County Sheriff’s Office to follow and enforce the health order. “It’s pretty sad because you know in Lea County the voters here we’re the ones who elected Sheriff Helton, she didn’t appoint him and he wasn’t appointed to his position, so obviously the citizens of Lea County want our sheriff, as the sheriff of Lea County,” Manis said.

News 13 wanted to get Helton’s thoughts on the court filing but have not heard back. The spokesperson for the restaurant says the sheriff is protecting the rights of citizens in Lea County.

“As far as I’m concerned the sheriff is doing his job, he is doing what we elected him to do and that’s support us, not the governor. I mean he does not work for the governor he works for the people of Lea County. I’m thrilled that he has stood by us,” said resident Jeff Lee.

The writ says the sheriff and his deputies also went to the Pizza Inn in Hobbs after their license was suspended for violating the state health order. The AG’s Office sent News 13 a statement:

“New Mexican families are all struggling through the dangerous COVID-19 pandemic, and it is not reasonable, nor responsible, for a very few members of law enforcement to encourage breaking a law designed to protect the public.”

New Mexico Coronavirus Resource Guide

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