Lea County deputies dining in at restaurants despite public health order

New Mexico News

HOBBS, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico sheriff’s department is not enforcing the law. In fact, they appear to be breaking the law, and they are flaunting it on social media.

Some deputies in Lea County are dining inside restaurants, a clear violation of the governor’s public health order. “The sheriff’s department came in, called us ahead of time to say they were coming in,” Casey’s spokesperson KT Manis said.

The photo taken Tuesday and posted to the sheriff’s office Facebook page shows a group of eight deputies eating inside Casey’s restaurant in Hobbs without a mask in sight. The caption reads “Do not be alarmed when you see LCSO deputies enter local restaurants. We are not there to enforce the governor’s mandate. We’re there to grab a bite and support our local businesses.”

The comments are split, with some people condemning the deputies’ behavior while others supported it. “The community is really supportive of us,” Manis said.

Manis said the restaurant was cited last Wednesday for defying the governor’s order and got their food permit suspended Thursday. However, they are still serving customers inside and not requiring masks, calling any gathering at the location a public protest until further notice. “We are not allowed to do dine-in per the governor’s orders,” Manis said. “However, we are protesting the governor’s order still as we have been doing for the past week.”

The sheriff’s office also shared a photo of deputies dining in at Pizza Inn. That restaurant lost its food service permit last week for still letting customers inside.

KRQE News 13 asked the sheriff’s office why its deputies were appearing to break the law and if they were concerned about contributing to the spread of the virus. They refused to interview but released the following statement:

The Lea County Sheriff’s Office fully supports all businesses in Lea County, especially those owned by hometown people. We feel by supporting them, we are giving back to the people who support us day in and day out. We love Lea County. We never want to see a business go under or feel hardships that are beyond their control.

Deputy Vivian Martinez

Lea County has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases recently. Tuesday, the county had 32 new cases. KRQE News 13 reached out to the governor’s office about the deputies’ actions but we have not heard back.

New Mexico Coronavirus Resource Guide

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