Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s deputies clasped hands outside the County Sheriff’s Office in Española Thursday afternoon, bowed their heads and prayed.
Hours earlier, their leader, County Sheriff James Lujan, was handcuffed.
Española Police and the Taos County Sheriff’s Office arrested Lujan Thursday morning for failing to comply with the stipulations of a search warrant and for physically resisting arrest, Española police public information officer Sgt. Jeremy Apodaca said.
Apodaca said he could not specify how exactly Lujan did not comply with the search warrant.
It required that Lujan turn over a mystery cell phone to the police.
The warrant was issued after Lujan did eventually comply with prior orders that he hand over two other cell phones. The orders, approved by Ninth Judicial District Attorney Andrea Reeb, stem from an investigation into a misdemeanor charge against Lujan for resisting, evading or obstructing an officer.
Reeb, whom Attorney General Hector Balderas appointed as special prosecutor in the case, said in a Thursday phone call that investigators realized the first two cell phones may not have been the ones they were looking for.
They noticed Lujan talking on a third cell phone after he turned the first two in, and they also noticed that he was talking on that third cell phone in lapel videos filmed prior to the first search warrant.
“Which means he did not give us that phone,” Reeb said. “We thought we had the phones, but then we were like, ‘Wait, I don’t think he gave us the right phone.’ He did have some time in there where he was not being watched properly.”
She said she did not know which phones Lujan gave the officers, but that she will know when investigators download all three phones.
She asked for the phones to begin with because she wants to know whether there is any pattern in Lujan’s alleged obstructions of investigations: in March, he showed up to an Española Police Department standoff in everyday clothes and allegedly drunk, told officers he was communicating with the person they were trying to arrest, former Española city councilor Philip Chacon, and tried to take control of the situation; and in May, he showed up when Española Police were trying to serve a search warrant on Española City Councilor John Ramon Vigil and Vigil was not coming out of his house.
Española Police had not called Lujan to either scene and felt he was obstructing their efforts.
After police found text and Facebook messages and emails between Vigil and Chacon, who is charged with the March 21 stabbing of Jacob Smith, they also charged Vigil with three counts of felony bribery and a misdemeanour count of refusing to aid an officer.
Reeb said she wants to examine the nature of Lujan’s communication, if any, with Vigil and Chacon in case there is a connection or a pattern.
The Thursday resisting charge is being added to the obstruction case.
As of Thursday afternoon, Española Police were planning to transport Lujan to a housing facility but did not specify which facility.
County Manager Tomas Campos, County Sheriff Public Information Officer Capt. Lorenzo Aguilar, and Lujan’s attorney Nathaniel Thompkins all declined to comment on the matter.
Española Police Chief Roger Jimenez did not return a text and a call requesting comment before press time Thursday.
As Española Police led Lujan from a police vehicle into the station, he gave reporters a thumbs up.