Family of Gallup man who died in police custody wants answers

New Mexico

GALLUP, N.M. (KRQE) – The family of a man who died in police custody is frustrated that more than a year later, still no decision has been made on whether those officers will face criminal charges. Rodney Lynch, 41, was taken into custody by Gallup Police last year after his attorney said he called 911 because he was intoxicated. He ended up being transported to a detox center. That is where a scuffle ensured, and he ended up dead.

A family is seeking answers. “It is heartbreaking,” Rodney’s wife, Rhonda Lynch, said. “We want justice, and we are not getting it.”

They are wondering if officers involved will be criminally charged. “The hardest thing is he is not here,” Rhonda said. “I go through a lot. Our kids do too. They miss their dad all the time, and I miss my husband too.”

In police lapel video from the incident in June 2019, there is a scuffle as Rodney arrives at a detox center. Police get him to the ground. The family’s attorney, Billy Keeler, said one officer had Rodney in a chokehold for more than a minute.

Keeler said the McKinley County District Attorney’s Office reportedly turned the case over to the Attorney General in late 2019, citing a conflict of interest. “They supposedly transferred it to the AG’s Office,” Keeler said. “When we checked with the AG’s Office back in January and February, we were told they had not received anything from the DA’s Office here, so we sent the information we had to the Attorney General, and they have been looking at it since late February or early March.”

It wasn’t until June that the AG’s Office officially announced it was investigating the case. Keeler said he hasn’t heard anything in more than a month. “The last time I spoke to them, they indicated that they were still looking into it,” Keeler said. “They needed to have their expert look into it.”

Keeler thinks it is an abnormally long time to decide whether to file criminal charges. Sen. George Munoz, who represents McKinley County, said he’s also contacted the AG’s Office about the case. “All across the nation, you see police chokeholds that people are dying from,” Munoz said. “Here we are sitting on a case, and no one seems to care.”

Rhonda said she too wants to know what is taking so long. “Why is it taking forever?” Rhonda asked. “That is all my family, my girls, and I want to know.”

The AG’s Office said that while Keeler gave them the information earlier in the year, the AG’s Office had to reconstruct the investigation because they did not receive the case file from the DA until June, which is when they announced their investigation. They said they are working aggressively to pursue justice.

KRQE News 13 reached out to the McKinley County DA’s Office for comment. All they would say is that they turned the case over in a timely fashion.

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