Taos Police have charged a Taos man with two counts of battery in connection to a June 25 altercation outside Lambert’s, but a Taos Pueblo tribal member – described as the “main …
Updated July 14 at 11 a.m.
Taos Police have charged a Taos man with two counts of battery in connection to a June 25 altercation outside Lambert’s, but a Taos Pueblo tribal member – described as the “main aggressor” in the incident – remained uncharged as of press time Wednesday (July 10) at Taos Pueblo, whose criminal jurisdiction extends beyond its traditional boundaries.
Connor Blue, one of the four men originally accused of attacking three local business owners who were exiting the popular Bent Street restaurant on June 25, was charged with two misdemeanor counts of battery in Taos Municipal Court this week.
One count was filed against Blue in relation to injuries caused to Marshall Thompson, the owner of Donabe Asian Kitchen, who said he was choked during the incident. The other count charges Blue with attacking Delta Bayer, the owner of Salon X, another business located in the downtown area of Taos. Bayer’s husband, Patrick Trujillo, was allegedly beaten in the altercation, which Thompson had previously said seemed to be racially motivated.
In spite of speculation that the attack may have constituted felony battery charges, Taos Police Chief David Trujillo has maintained that the officer who responded to the call found no evidence that a felony had been committed, and therefore could not immediately make an arrest.
“Any misdemeanor that doesn’t occur in an officer’s presence we cannot arrest on,” Trujillo said previously for a story in the July 3 edition of The Taos News.
In response to Facebook comments criticizing that explanation, Trujillo pointed to state statutes that support his claim. He reiterated that an arrest can only be made without witnessing a crime when evidence of a felony can be found. A review of the statutes indicates he is correct. Similar laws are on the books in most states.
Thompson, however, told The Taos News that it took too long for the officer to respond to the fight (10 minutes, according to dispatch logs). The fight also took place within less than one qaurter of a mile from Taos Police Department, which is located at 400 Camino de la Placita.
While the two other nontribal suspects fall under the jurisdiction of town police, Trujillo said his investigating detective, Fidel Cordova, did not find enough evidence to prove they had participated in the attack. In fact, those two men claimed they were attempting to break up the fight.
“As far as any other counts against any of the others involved, it was alleged that Mr. Hunter Gomez was the main aggressor in the altercation,” Trujillo said. “Now, Hunter Gomez is a Taos tribal member and we do not have jurisdiction over hm.”
While Bent Street doesn’t fall within Taos Pueblo proper, Trujillo referenced state laws that grant local tribal law enforcement, the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the FBI jurisdiction over an “exterior tribal boundary,” roughly extending “south of Taos Pueblo, just past Siler and Los Pandos roads, from east to west,” Trujillo said. He estimated that the boundary extends as far west as the Río Grande Gorge Bridge.
But the boundaries of tribal jurisdiction are not exactly crystal clear.
In a 2007 essay written for the University of New Mexico Law Review, Robert Lucero Jr. discusses two court cases filed against tribal members in Northern New Mexico in 2001 and 2002. The cases raised questions about whether federal, tribal, state or local law enforcement held jurisdiction after crimes were committed by tribal members in lands that once were part of tribal land, but had been made private. After the cases became the subject of a legal quagmire in state courts, the U.S. Congress eventually intervened, passing legislation in 2005 to “ensure that crimes committed anywhere in New Mexico would not go without prosecution.”
But even for Trujillo, it’s not clear what happens with a case after his department hands it off to Taos Pueblo authorities.
“I have no idea what Taos Tribal Police will do with their portion of this case or what court charges would be filed,” he said. “I also do not know how transparent their system is as far as public record is concerned.”
A representative at Taos Pueblo Tribal Court declined to describe the extent of the external tribal boundary or to say whether charges had been filed against Hunter Gomez as of press time.
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