Albuquerque police recently arrested and charged a man who was apparently doing nothing more than carrying a firearm.
According to public records obtained by Police Complaints, the man was seen near San Pedro and Central one evening in August, riding a bicycle and carrying a rifle. Out of respect for his privacy, we have chosen not to release the man’s identity. But we can tell you about the officers who stopped him.
At least six of them were on the scene, several with weapons drawn. Officers on the scene included Marcia Benavides, David Taylor, Peter Silva, Sergeant Bruce Werley, Sergeant Brian Maurer and Lieutenant Gregory Brachle. According to a criminal complaint obtained by Police Complaints, Officer Silva was armed with a taser. Police lapel camera footage shows cops with rifles drawn while questioning the disarmed and seated suspect.
Police arrested the man and charged him with disorderly conduct and concealing identity. No firearms-related charges were filed. However, Officer Marcia Benavides is heard on video explaining that they stopped the man simply because he was seen carrying a weapon:
Marcia Benavides: We’re out with you because somebody called and saw these weapons all on your person. That’s why we’re stopping you right now.
Arrestee: It’s not against the law for me to have weapons.
The arrested man is correct. According to the New Mexico Department of Public Safety Web site, New Mexico is an “open-carry” state, which means citizens have the right to carry weapons in open view. Second Amendment rights are even more strongly protected in vehicles, including the vehicle the arrested man was riding—a bicycle.
In a conversation recorded at the police station, officers say they understand what open-carry means…
Arrestee: This is an open carry state.
Officer David Taylor: It is an open carry state.
But as officer David Taylor went on to explain, Albuquerque police apparently imagine there is a more important right not to be upset by the sight of weapons.
Taylor: Just like you have the right to carry arms, everybody has the right to not have their peace disturbed by somebody that’s stupid as going down the road like that, that’s just dumb man. It is.
Police claim that they were called to the scene by a someone who was frightened by the sight of a man carrying a gun. However, according to the criminal complaint, officers were never able to identify that caller. This anonymous complaint amounts to a “heckler’s veto,” which led to a citizen being arrested for exercising his Second Amendment rights, simply because someone else didn’t like the look of it.
One unidentified officer went even further, asserting that police have the power to stop and question anyone they see carrying a weapon:
Officer: So based on the fact that you are in simple possession of a hand gun of any type, we need to identify you and make sure you’re not prohibited or one of those people with a domestic violence charge or you’re not a convicted felon. Would you agree with me on that part?
Open-carry is a constitutional right specifically protected by New Mexico State Law. But according to these officers, exercising that right creates reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, and justifies a detention—or even an arrest.
The cops were quick to point out that they personally love guns:
Taylor: I’m all about people having guns. I love for people to own guns. Okay.
Arrestee: Well, you see I’ve done nothing wrong.
Taylor: I kn[ow]— uh, but when you do— uh— the way you did something tonight, it just wasn’t smart. It’s not smart at all.
It sounds like Officer Taylor is about to agree. He starts to say “I know”, before he catches himself.
Later on, Officer Taylor and the other officers are seen on video admiring the arrested man’s weapon.
Shortly after this incident, gun-lover David Taylor was placed on desk duty pending an internal affairs investigation. Taylor’s wife, Elizabeth Taylor, was arrested in August on suspicion of acting as a straw buyer to purchase firearms illegally for a convicted felon, a felon who went on to open fire on police officers who came to arrest him for murder. Now the Albuquerque Police Department is investigating how much David Taylor knew, or should have known, about his wife’s illegal firearms purchase.
Arrestee: Since when is it against the law for me to carry a weapon?
It seems that Albuquerque police may be willing to turn a blind eye to illegal firearms purchases when done by one of their own, but are ready to arrest every day citizens who carry firearms legally.
The arrested man is being represented in Metropolitan Court by well-known civil rights attorney Joseph Kennedy. It seems likely that, after beating the trumped up criminal charges, Kennedy is looking forward to a juicy civil rights lawsuit against the Albuquerque Police Department, a department whose misconduct has cost city taxpayers more than 30 million dollars in the last decade.
This information was uncovered and reported by Police Complaints of Albuquerque, empowering direct and local police oversight, by citizens, for citizens. Visit our Web site or find us on Facebook where we will be posting updates as the case progresses.
Submitted by Mike Moya.