MOUNTAINAIR, N.M. (KRQE) –  A New Mexico police officer is accused of breaking into his chief’s office and meddling with evidence. That was back in November, but he’s still on a paid suspension.

The investigation into Mountainair police officer Michael Shumate is still ongoing. The town council is divided on whether to fire him and even now seven months later they’re at a standstill.

In a video released by the town, you see the foundation for the allegations against Michael Shumate.

According to the report, on October 31st, 2021 around 9:00 pm, you see Shumate going into police chief Juan Reyes’ office for a few minutes without permission. Four hours later, at 1:30 in the morning, he does it again. He then rummages through paperwork on another officer’s desk in the main part of the station and makes copies of an active criminal sexual investigation case they say he’s not a part of—including sensitive information like interviews with the victim and suspect. On top of that, the investigation says he downloaded video from body cameras onto three USB devices—all without permission. Shumate’s attorney, Eric Dixon, says it’s all a misunderstanding.

“The chief attempted to take action against [sic] back before the beginning of the year however that was appealed to the town council and the town council didn’t make a decision to uphold the chief’s request and so he’s continued to be an employee of the town,” Dixon says.


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Two council members voted to fire Shumate; one voted against it, and one—Ernie Lopez—recused himself saying he didn’t see evidence of a crime.

“My opinion is if they had all the evidence they said they needed to get rid of him and even prosecute him, it would’ve been a done deal by now,” Lopez says.

The chief has filed a complaint with the Law Enforcement Academy (LEA), which will conduct its own investigation and decide if Shumate should face any disciplinary action or lose his law enforcement certification—but to this point, that hearing has not been scheduled.

Mountainair Mayor Peter Nieto said in a statement: “At this time, without three members of Town Council voting to affirm my decision of termination, we are at a standstill.” He also said the town is working with its lawyers to find a solution. The mayor said that he did offer to bring Shumate back with the same pay doing code enforcement until a resolution is met, but he says Shumate did not take that offer.

This isn’t the only incident under investigation at Mountainair Police Department. A female officer filed a complaint last month accusing town councilor Ernie Lopez of sexual harassment. She alleges the councilor used the job as ‘bait’ to try to start a romantic relationship—asking about her breast size, flirting with her over text, and then making comments about having the power to eliminate jobs. She now claims she’s being retaliated against. That complaint is still under investigation.

KRQE News 13 asked Lopez for comment on that—he tells us that this is a personnel issue and he had no further comment at this time.