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Activists: Police killings of Latinos go unnoticed, underscoring racial history
Source:  Albuquerque Journal
Sunday, 23 August 2020 22:24

Isis and Alexis Valenzuela, daughters of Antonio Valenzuela, hug each other during a candlelight vigil in Las Cruces on March 5. Antonio Valenzuela was killed by a Las Cruces police officer in February. (Bethany Freudenthal/Las Cruces Sun News)

A demonstrator receives a traditional Aztec blessing before marching to downtown Los Angeles during a Black Lives Matter protest on June 17 in Los Angeles. Protesters were calling for the removal of Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Forty-year-old Antonio Valenzuela’s death didn’t spark widespread protests like George Floyd’s. In fact, the police killing of Valenzuela drew little attention outside Las Cruces.

The details about the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died in May at the hands of Minneapolis police resemble that of Valenzuela, a Mexican American man, who was killed in Las Cruces three months before global protests and outrage. Like Floyd, Valenzuela was killed by a choking maneuver during a struggle with an officer. In Valenzuela’s case, the officer was also Hispanic.

As national Black Lives Matter demonstrations grow, Latino activists are joining the multiracial protests while trying to draw attention to their deadly police encounters, some of which go back decades. Latino advocates and families of those killed by police say they aren’t trying to pull the focus away from Black lives but want to illustrate their own suffering from policing and systemic racism.

Activists say cases from Phoenix to Springfield, Massachusetts, show a pattern of police violence against Latinos like that against Black people. As with the killing of Black men and women, officers rarely face punishment in the deaths of Latinos. However, Latino cases seldom garner national attention, even when caught on video.

The lack of attention around encounters that go wrong between Latinos and police highlights a lack of knowledge among the general population about Latino history in the U.S. and racism endured in the American Southwest. It also brings attention to the backlash some Mexican Americans say they endure when trying to join the national conversation about race.

“It’s like they don’t care about Latinos and the racism we face,� said Frank Alvarado Sr., 76, a retired U.S. Marine whose son was shot and killed by police in Salinas, California, in 2014 while holding a cellphone officers said they thought was a gun. Alvarado has since joined Black Lives Matter protests in nearby Sacramento.

According to The Washington Post, between 2015 and April 2020, Black Americans were killed by police at the highest rate in the U.S., at 31 per million residents. Latinos were killed by police at the second-highest rate, 23 per million residents, according to the newspaper’s analysis. Both are disproportionate rates when matched against percentages of the population.

In Las Cruces, a city of about 100,000 where nearly 60% of residents are Hispanic, the rate of police killings from 2015 to April 2020 was 26.2 for every million residents, or two to three people a year, according to the Post. But that rate was the highest for any city in the nation, the Post reported.

New Mexico, a state with the largest percentage of Latino residents in the nation, also had the second-highest rate of all states for police killings, behind Alaska.

In the Valenzuela case, police video posted by the Las Cruces Sun-News shows officers chasing him after he fled from a traffic stop in February when he was found to have a parole violation. He was hit with a Taser twice but continued to struggle with officers.

Eventually, officers catch Valenzuela and Las Cruces police officer Christopher Smelser is heard saying, “I’m going to (expletive) choke you out, bro.� Valenzuela gasps for breath before going silent. The coroner determined that he died of asphyxial injuries and that he had methamphetamine in his system, which contributed to his death.

Smelser, who is also Hispanic, was fired and initially charged with involuntary manslaughter. Only after activists tied Valenzuela’s death to Floyd’s killing and Black Lives Matter protests hit Las Cruces did New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas file a second-degree murder charge against Smelser, in July.

Smelser’s attorney, Amy L. Orlando, called the new charge a political move meant to grab headlines.

“Officer Smelser used a technique that was sanctioned by the department,� she said.

The city of Las Cruces has agreed to pay Valenzuela’s family more than $6 million.

A string of police killings of Latinos in Salinas, California, in 2014 received national attention after Floyd’s death. That year, police shot and killed four Latinos in the city of 160,000.

Ana Barrera, 48, an activist and middle school teacher, said the shootings stirred normally quiet Latino farmworkers, who marched and expressed anger that officers weren’t facing discipline. She said immigration status and fear over losing easily replaced farm jobs might have prevented some from speaking out.

“That’s changed now,� said Barrera, who has since arranged meetings with Black Lives Matter organizers from Ferguson, Missouri.

Monica Muñoz Martinez, the author of “The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas,� said police killings of Latinos don’t evoke the same emotion nationally as those of Blacks because most Americans don’t know about this aspect of the violent history of the American West.

“This country also can’t discuss race outside of a Black-white binary,� Martinez said. “And that does not paint the true history of white supremacy.�

Marisol Márquez, an organizer with Los Angeles-based Centro CSO Community Service Organization, said Mexican American activists know this history but felt immediately after Floyd’s killing the need to “center� Black Lives Matter when demonstrating against police violence.

On June 7, the group convened a Black Lives Matter protest outside of Mariachi Plaza in Los Angeles. Aztec dancers, lowriders and elder pachucos gathered to memorialize Floyd and rally in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Black and Native American speakers addressed the crowd. But the high number of Latino speakers also drew a backlash.

“We got an angry message that said we really needed to have had way more speakers who were not Latino or Chicanos,� Márquez said. “I was so angry. Who they were referring to were people who had family members who had died at the hands of LAPD … Chicanos.�


Wisconsin Police Shooting Leaves Black Man In 'Serious Condition'
Source:  KRWG
Sunday, 23 August 2020 22:00

Updated at 1:50 a.m. ET A Black man was in serious condition after being shot several times by a police officer responding to a domestic situation in Kenosha, Wisc. The shooting, caught on video, quickly sparked outrage. City police said the person was in serious condition and being treated at a hospital. Local media identified the man as 29-year-old Jacob Blake. The shooting happened as officers were responding to a "domestic incident," just after 5 p.m., the Kenosha Police Department said in a media release . The person was flown to a Milwaukee area hospital following the shooting, police said. Officers "provided immediate aid to the person," the statement said. The department says the incident is being turned over to the criminal investigation division of the state's Department of Justice. Gov. Tony Evers issued a statement Sunday night naming the man. "Tonight, Jacob Blake was shot in the back multiple times, in broad daylight, in Kenosha, Wisconsin," he said. "While we do not have

Wisconsin Police Shooting Leaves Black Man In 'Serious Condition'
Source:  KUNM
Sunday, 23 August 2020 22:00

Updated at 3:43 a.m. ET A Black man was in serious condition after being shot several times by a police officer responding to a domestic situation in Kenosha, Wisc. The shooting, caught on video, quickly sparked outrage. City police said the person was in serious condition and being treated at a hospital. Local media identified the man as 29-year-old Jacob Blake. The shooting happened as officers were responding to a "domestic incident," just after 5 p.m., the Kenosha Police Department said in a media release . The person was flown to a Milwaukee area hospital following the shooting, police said. Officers "provided immediate aid to the person," the statement said. The department says the incident is being turned over to the criminal investigation division of the state's Department of Justice. Gov. Tony Evers issued a statement Sunday night naming the man. "Tonight, Jacob Blake was shot in the back multiple times, in broad daylight, in Kenosha, Wisconsin," he said. "While we do not have

City receives only two street closure applications, approves one
Source:  KRQE News 13
Sunday, 23 August 2020 21:41

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – When the City of Albuquerque announced they’d be approving outdoor dining permits for restaurant owners, they gave restaurants without parking lots an option to apply for limited street closures, but they haven’t gotten very many applications.

Church Street Cafe is one of only two limited street closure applications the city has received. The permit for Church Street Cafe did get approved, and Church Street directly in front of the cafe is now closed. The owner, Marie Coleman says she applied because even though she has a patio in the back of her restaurant, it only has ten tables, and it’s not enough to keep her in business. “Patio seating makes up only about 10% of my restaurant,” said Coleman.

Coleman now has a tent set up on Church Street, making room for at least five more tables. Coleman says it hasn’t made a huge difference in business, but it’s a sign to people visiting Old Town, that her restaurant is open.

The city says the other company that applied for the permits, 505 Dating, did not get approved because their plan went against the mass gathering ban. The City says they’re willing to help 505 Dating revise its plan so it’s in compliance with the health order. Main thoroughfares do not qualify for limited street closure applications.


New Mexico Coronavirus Resource Guide


Social distancing circles drawn on grass at Santa Fe park
Source:  KRQE News 13
Sunday, 23 August 2020 21:39

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Using art to promote social distancing, one New Mexico city has laid out exactly where park goers can hangout safely. The City of Santa Fe recently painted clouds on the ground at one of the city’s parks all spaced out six feet apart. while some applaud the city’s effort others completely ignored it.

Eighty painted clouds cover the ground at Alto Park in Santa Fe. “It was obvious to me immediately when I pulled up what those were,” says Mike Nestor. The clouds are approximately six feet apart. “The basic concept is for individuals to stay within their clouds, circles, bubbles,” says Parks and Recreation Director John Munoz.

Similar designs have popped up in major cities across the country and around the world. “It minimizes the potential for infection. We know people want to be outside so if they’re out they can stay safe,” Munoz says.

The City of Santa Fe collaborated with local art group Falling Colors to use art to educate residents on COVID safe practices in public spaces. Some visitors are on board with the idea. “We’ve been forced to become a lot more deliberate in our action. In our physical, physicality, when you go to the grocery store people move really differently. They are all getting very aware of each other. What’s ok, what’s not,” Nestor says.

While others say the added artwork is taking up space. “Me and the kids sort of thought, it’s getting in the way of our frisbee time,” says Jose Trujillo. And News 13 cameras caught one group ignoring the clouds completely. “It’s like anything I think some people will do what they want to do and are going to do it regardless and have been oblivious,” says Nestor says.

So far, they’ve only painted the circles at Alto Park but they are hoping to expand to other parks across the city. “We hope to reach as many people as possible and they comply and they keep themselves and other people safe,” Munoz says.

Parks and Rec officials tell us, the paint doesn’t damage the grass and will last about three months. We asked the City of Albuquerque if they had plans for social distancing circles at city parks. They tell us it’s something they are considering for special events at parks in the future.


New Mexico Coronavirus Resource Guide


Video of police shooting in Wisconsin sparks protests
Source:  KOST - Albuquerque News
Sunday, 23 August 2020 21:38

Neighbors confronted law enforcement at the scene of a police shooting in Wisconsin, on Sunday and crowds marched in the streets after a video posted on social media appeared to show officers shoot at a man’s back as he leaned into a vehicle.


Past officer, deputy faces many charges in burglaries over the years
Source:  Albuquerque Journal
Sunday, 23 August 2020 21:18

Christopher McCasland

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Christopher McCasland wasn’t just burglarizing popular Angel Fire businesses – including the village’s ski resort – while he was a police officer, court documents say. He was also allegedly getting his ex-wife and a child involved.

The former Angel Fire police officer and Roosevelt County deputy even took a police report for one of the burglaries he’s accused of committing, according to a criminal complaint.

McCasland is charged with crimes in two counties, including receiving stolen property, commercial burglary and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle.

New Mexico State Police caught on to the burglaries in June during an investigation into McCasland’s missing department firearm from the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office. McCasland’s ex-wife told investigators she was with him as he burglarized two businesses in Angel Fire while McCasland was an officer in the Angel Fire Police Department.

There was also a child present during one of the alleged burglaries, according to court documents.

McCasland, who most recently worked at the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office, resigned July 14 and was booked into the Quay County jail the next day, according to a July news release from the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office. A small amount of marijuana was found in McCasland’s patrol unit.

Snowmobile

His law enforcement status is temporarily suspended, state Law Enforcement Academy Director Kelly Alzaharna recently told the Journal.

McCasland denied the allegations when State Police agents confronted him with them. His lawyer declined to comment on the case when reached by the Journal.

McCasland’s ex-wife, Kendra Gossett, told State Police that while they were living in Angel Fire from 2013 to 2016, McCasland stole several saws and other landscaping equipment from a lumber store, new TVs from a local brewery, and a snowmobile from the Angel Fire Resort.

Police tracked down a man in Eagle Nest who bought an allegedly stolen snowmobile from McCasland. Gossett said McCasland sold other stolen items as well.

Court documents say police found items in McCasland’s Portales home that matched descriptions of items that were reported stolen.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit written by State Police Sgt. Gerardo Hernandez:

Gossett was interviewed by State Police in Clovis in June during an investigation into a firearm missing from the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office. She told Hernandez that McCasland committed burglaries while he was an Angel Fire officer and that she helped him in the burglaries.

Chain saws and more

Gossett said McCasland stole five chain saws and a pole pruner from Alpine Lumber in Angel Fire.

According to the Angel Fire police report on the Alpine Lumber burglary, 11 items were stolen for a total value of $5,739.

Gossett then told police McCasland stole TVs from Enchanted Circle Brewing in Angel Fire. She said he went inside the brewery one day while it was being remodeled and propped open the back door after using the restroom.

Gossett said McCasland later woke her up around 1 or 2 a.m. and told her there were some TVs at the brewery. “Ms. Gossett then went with Deputy McCasland while leaving her child sleeping at home and helped him steal two televisions inside the Enchanted Brewery,� the affidavit says.

Gossett also told officers about the theft of a snowmobile from the Angel Fire Resort.

She said McCasland would go up to the resort during work hours and drive around the storage unit with the snowmobiles. She said he told her about a blue snowmobile in a storage unit that still had the keys in the ignition.

A few days later, she said she was awakened in the middle of the night.

“She said she put her child in the vehicle and followed Deputy McCasland to the snowmobile storage unit at the top of the mountain in the Angel Fire Resort. … They got to the storage unit and stole the snowmobile,� Hernandez wrote.

$8,000 in cash

In January 2019, about $8,000 disappeared from the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office evidence vault. McCasland denied having any involvement in the burglaries or the missing $8,000 from the evidence vault. But he did tell Hernandez and agent Kenneth Villarreal that he bought a boat for $8,000 last year and sold it.

Police searched his Portales home and seized a 50-inch TV and two Stihl landscaping tools. Hernandez wrote that the items were confirmed to be the ones stolen by checking the serial numbers in the Alpine Lumber burglary report and by using the brewery’s receipt for the TV.

McCasland was put on administrative leave after the State Police investigation into the missing gun found links to other crimes, the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office news release says. McCasland was indicted on one count of receiving stolen property in 9th Judicial District Court in Portales and is scheduled to be arraigned later this month.

He is also charged with nonresidential burglary and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle in Colfax County Magistrate Court, and there’s no indication if those charges will be taken to a higher court soon.

Officer Dusty J. Francisco, a State Police spokesman, said McCasland will not be charged in connection with the missing firearm or the money missing from the evidence vault.

Gossett has not been charged with any crimes.


NFL has 77 apparently false positive COVID-19 tests from lab
Source:  Artesia News
Sunday, 23 August 2020 21:18

NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL had 77 positive COVID-19 tests from 11 teams re-examined by a New Jersey lab after false positives, and all those tests came back negative.

Storm Marco closes in on Louisiana as Laura buffets Cuba
Source:  Artesia News
Sunday, 23 August 2020 21:13

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — After a day as a hurricane, Tropical Storm Marco approached Louisiana for an expected landfall around midday Monday, while Tropical Storm Laura was forecast to move along Cuba's southern coast during the day before entering the Gulf of Mexico and heading toward the same stretch of U.S. coast later in the week, most likely as a hurricane.

New Mexico man in custody after attempting to burn down a Walmart
Source:  KOB.com - New Mexico News
Sunday, 23 August 2020 21:12

Police say a man is in custody after he tried to burn down a Walmart in Truth or Consequences early Sunday.

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