Warning of “bloodshed and mayhem” in the streets if voters make the wrong choice at the ballot box, United States Attorney General William Barr appeared in Albuquerque Wednesday with Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales in tow.
Gonzales, a Democrat, proudly promoted Barr’s visit via a post on Twitter.
Both celebrated the arrest of what they claim are more than 100 individuals in the Albuquerque region under Operation Legend, a joint BCSO-Federal operation launched earlier this year as a part of President Trump’s campaign to “restore law and order” and arrest “murderers and violent criminals [who] are breaking a wide range of federal laws.”
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Barr told the Associated Press, “If you want to be safe, if you are tired of the blood and mayhem on the streets, then you have to start paying attention to who you vote for.”
Federal prosecutors claim they have arrested and prosecuted more than 100 individuals in Albuquerque, but neither the sheriff nor federal officials have released more than a few names of those charged or details of their operations.
Barr also told reporters that Albuquerque had still not accepted $10 million in law enforcement grants offered to the City earlier this year. A spokesperson for Mayor Keller quickly responded that Albuquerque had, in fact, agreed to accept the money but, “the DOJ told APD that APD cannot submit the paperwork to the DOJ’s own web portal until after October 15. For AG Barr and US Attorney Anderson to then claim on October 14 that there is any delay on the City’s part is disingenuous at best, and a manufactured ploy to undermine Albuquerque at worst.”
Many locals see a similarity between this operation and one undertaken by federal agents under former US Attorney Damon Martinez, now public safety advisor to Mayor Tim Keller.
In 2016, federal agents, acting in cooperation with the US Attorney’s Office, announced the arrest of more than 100 federal violators in another federal crackdown on the “worst of the worst.” Instead, data later revealed from court filings showed that many offenders were homeless or addicted men and women of color, often arrested for minor offenses like possessing controlled substances.
New Mexico In Depth’s Jeff Proctor wrote at the time:
[The] operation that scooped up African Americans at numbers far exceeding their actual share of Albuquerque’s population while apparently netting few high-level operators in the local gun and drug trades. Most of those arrested sold relatively small quantities of drugs to agents or, in some cases, simply brokered deals. A few people sold pounds of drugs and assault rifles to agents, while others were charged with carrying guns during drug transactions or illegally possessing firearms with felony records. However, many of those swept up do not appear to have the types of violent criminal records ATF says it used as a prerequisite for targeting, although some… do. Some had no felony records at all. Also…some were homeless and struggling with substance abuse problems.Feds’ sting ensnared many ABQ blacks, not ‘worst of the worst’
By Jeff Proctor, New Mexico In Depth | May 7, 2017
Gonzales’ deputies assisted with some of those arrests.
Since then, Gonzales has actively fought efforts for oversight of law enforcement, including efforts by the Bernalillo County Commission to require his deputies to wear body-worn cameras and he opposed a recently created law enforcement advisory commission charged with evaluating sheriff’s department policies.
Earlier this year, Gonzales appeared at the White House with President Trump to announce the Operation Legend partnership. Gonzales has not said how many of his deputies are assisting federal agents or how targets are identified.
While traveling in Albuquerque, the Department of Justice announced that it was ending it’s probe of a 2016-era campaign grievance of Trump’s without any serious findings of wrongdoing. In that case, Barr had appointed a US attorney to investigate the “unmasking” of Michael Flynn, Trump’s campaign aide turned national security advisor who pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia. The USDOJ has since moved to dismiss that case.
Asked about Barr during a campaign stop on Tuesday, Trump replied, “I’m not happy with all the evidence I have, I can tell you that. I’m not happy.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.