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Tag: New Mexico

FBI: Militia That Stopped Migrants at Border Was Training to kill Obama, Clinton and Soros

Larry Mitchell Hopkins

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The leader of an armed, right-wing militia that was stopping migrants at the southern border was “training” his group to assassinate Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and George Soros, an FBI agent said in court papers.

Larry Mitchell Hopkins, 69, was arrested in New Mexico, where the United Constitutional Patriots is based, and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The UCP boasted about detaining about 6,500 migrants in New Mexico in the past two months.

FBI Special Agent David S. Gabriel said in an affidavit that the FBI was alerted to Hopkins’ suspicious activities following reports in October 2017 of “alleged militia extremist activity,” the New York Times reports.

A month later, two FBI agents entered Hopkins’ home with his consent and found 10 firearms. Hopkins insisted the guns belonged to his common-law wife, Fay Sanders Murphy.

In the affidavit, the FBI said the UCP “were training to assassinate George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama because of these individuals’ support of Antifa,” a left-wing activist group that has clashed, sometimes violently, with right-wing groups across the country. No more details were provided.

What remains unclear is why the FBI waited so long to arrest Hopkins after finding the guns. The FBI concluded at the time that the possession of weapons was illegal because Hopkins was a felon.

“My question is, why now?” Hopkins’ attorney, Kelly O’Connell, asked about the arrest.

Hopkins, who has a long rap sheet, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

O’Connell acknowledged he’s “not a militia specialist,” but said Hopkins and other members of the armed group “believe they are helping to enforce the laws of America on immigration.”

FBI Arrests Leader of Armed Militia That Was Detaining Undocumented Immigrants

Distant border fence in the desert near El Paso and its Mexican neighbor Juarez.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The FBI on Saturday arrested the leader of an armed militia that was detaining undocumented immigrants at the southern border.

Larry Mitchell Hopkins, 69, was arrested in New Mexico, where the United Constitutional Patriots is based, on charges of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, the New Mexico attorney general, Hector Balderas, announced.

The arrest comes after the group posted controversial images and video of its operations on its Facebook page, showing members detaining immigrants.

“This is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families,” Balderas wrote in a statement. “The arrest by the FBI indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hand of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes.”

A spokesman for the United Constitutional Patriots claimed responsibility for detaining 5,600 immigrants over the past two months, saying the group’s mission is “to support the Border Patrol.”

But U.S. Customs and Border Protection has urged private citizens not to get involved with detaining immigrants and asked that they instead alert border officials.

Aliens? Earth-Bound Asteroid? Group Explains Closure, FBI Probe of Space Observatory

Sunspot Solar Observatory, via Wikipedia.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Aliens? An Earth-bound asteroid? A super solar flare?

The mysterious closure of a space observatory in New Mexico last week spurred wild theories.

The group that manages the Sunspot Solar Observatory explained the closure in a Facebook post, saying it had been “cooperating with an on-going law enforcement investigation of criminal activity that occurred at Sacramento Park.”

The state from the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy continued, “we became concerned that a suspect in the investigation potentially posed a threat to the safety of local staff and residents. For this reason, AURA temporarily vacated the facility and ceased science activities at this location.”

The FBI initially swooped into the observatory without explanation, prompting even the local sheriff to question what was going on.

“For the FBI to get involved that quick and be so secretive about it, there was a lot of stuff going on up there,” Otero County Sheriff Benny House said. “There was a Blackhawk helicopter, a bunch of people around antennas and work crews on towers but nobody would tell us anything.” 

At the time, the observatory’s website only indicated the shutdown occurred “due to unforeseen circumstances” and would remain closed “until further notice.”

The observatory is close to the famous Roswell landing site, where a UFO in 1947 fell from the sky. Officials originally said the object was a weather balloon but changed the story years later. Conspiracy theorists have long maintained it was an alien craft.

AURA, which later said the observatory was closed “based on the logistical challenges associated with protecting personnel at such a remote location, and the need for expeditious response to the potential threat,” gave no further explanation of the “criminal activity.”

AURA acknowledged how the “lack of communications while the facility was vacated was concerning and frustrating for some.

“However, our desire to provide additional information had to be balanced against the risk that, if spread at the time, the news would alert the suspect and impede the law enforcement investigation. That was a risk we could not take,” said the statement.

FBI Swoops in on Space Observatory without Explanation, Prompting UFO Conspiracy Theories

Sunspot Solar Observatory, via Wikipedia.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Conspiracy theories are swirling after the FBI secretly swooped in on a space observatory in New Mexico and evacuated it without explanation.

FBI agents, some of whom arrived in a Blackhawk helicopter, shut down the Sunspot Solar Observatory for an unexplained security issue with no word on when it will reopen.

Otero County Sheriff Benny House told Alamogordo Daily News that local law enforcement was asked to be on standby.

“The FBI is refusing to tell us what’s going on,” House said. “We’ve got people up there (at Sunspot) that requested us to standby while they evacuate it. Nobody would really elaborate on any of the circumstances as to why. The FBI were up there. What their purpose was nobody will say.”

House said the FBI’s response was unusual.

“For the FBI to get involved that quick and be so secretive about it, there was a lot of stuff going on up there,” House said. “There was a Blackhawk helicopter, a bunch of people around antennas and work crews on towers but nobody would tell us anything.”

The observatory’s website only indicated the shutdown occurred “due to unforeseen circumstances” and would remain closed “until further notice.”

The FBI’s actions and subsequent silence on the issue triggered conspiracy theories about the detection of extraterrestrial life.

The observatory is close to the famous Roswell landing site, where a UFO in 1947 fell from the sky. Officials said the object was a weather balloon, but conspiracy theorists have long maintained it was an alien craft.

House said he can’t understand why the FBI is involved.

“They’re not federal employees,” the sheriff said. “It maybe somebody who threatened one of their workers. If that’s the case, why didn’t call us and let us deal with it. These guys are regular workers that work for this company. I don’t know why the FBI would get involved so quick and not tell us anything.”

FBI Mulls Criminal Probe over Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research

Anti-Planned Parenthood rally. File photo by Steve Neavling.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is considering criminal investigations over the use of aborted fetus tissue in medical research at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and the Southwestern Women’s Options abortion clinic in Albuquerque.

The FBI is looking into a request by the Republican-led House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives to investigate Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, including the Southwestern Women’s Options in Albuquerque, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

“We can confirm that the Criminal Investigative Division of the FBI Headquarters has received this information, including the two referrals made to the New Mexico Attorney General regarding practices of the UNM HSC and SWO, and sent the materials to the relevant FBI field offices for review and any action deemed appropriate,” Steven E. Boyd, assistant attorney general for legislative affairs in Washington, wrote in a letter on Friday to Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M.

Pearce, who raised concerns about the use of fetal tissue research, said he was encouraged by the letter.

“I applaud today’s action by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to take up the criminal referrals in New Mexico regarding violations made by the University of New Mexico and the Southwestern Women’s Options,” Pearce wrote on his Facebook page. “Even more, DOJ will be investigating all fifteen criminal referrals that were sent out but not acted upon at the conclusion of the Select Panel’s investigation.”

Health Sciences Center spokeswoman Alex Sanchez said the organization is aware of the letter.

“The UNM Health Sciences Center has not been contacted by the FBI and only today became aware of the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs’ letter to Rep. Pearce,” Sanchez said. “As is our practice, if we are contacted, we will cooperate fully.”

Other Stories of Interest

Off-Duty Border Patrol Agent Severely Beaten in New Mexico

border patrolBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A motorist found an off-duty Border Patrol agent on the side of the road in New Mexico on Friday night, severely beaten and left for dead.

The agent, who was assigned to the Deming Border Patrol Station in New Mexico, sustained serious injuries to his head, chest and hands, according to a CBP news release. He was found about 11 p.m. in Dona Ana County, west of Las Cruces.

The agent, whose name has not been released, was rushed to a nearby hospital and was in stable condition.

The FBI, Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office and the El Paso Police Department are helping investigate.

Another off-duty Border Patrol agent was stabbed in the eye in the El Paso Sector on May 20.

“CBP has informed its workforce of this report and has reminded its law enforcement personnel to be alert and aware of their surroundings and potential threats related to their service,” CBP said in the news release.

Border Patrol Agent Shoots Suspect at Las Cruces Checkpoint

police tapeBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A Border Patrol agent shot a man accused of pointing a gun at agents at the Las Cruces Immigration Checkpoint on I-25 in New Mexico on Sunday.

CBP is investigating the shooting, which happened around 6:15 p.m., the Deming Headlight reports. 

The incident happened after the suspect was undergoing a secondary inspection. Authorities said the man, who has not yet been identified, brandished a handgun and then fired once in the direction of agents.

Agents returned fire, striking the suspect at least once.

The suspect was air lifted to a local hospital in an unknown condition.

Supreme Court Strengthens Qualified Immunity for Law Enforcement Officers’ Use of Deadly Force

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

It was a tough year for law enforcement officers. Line of duty deaths, especially intentional killings of police, were up dramatically. Several categories of violent crime, including homicides, rose significantly after two decades of steady decline in crime statistics. Recruitment of new officers is becoming difficult, and officers confronting deadly situations are justifiably wary about the public (and media) second-guessing life or death decisions that had to be made under pressure within seconds.

Heather MacDonald, in her recent book The War On Cops, blames these developments on an anti-law enforcement movement led by groups like Black Lives Matter, accentuated by media attention, and facilitated by the policies of the Obama Administration. Whether you buy all of her conclusions, she does make a persuasive case that the current atmosphere in some segments of the public about law enforcement has resulted in officers being less aggressive in discretionary policing and that is a factor in a new crime wave, especially in the nation’s cities.

Into this troubling and dangerous situation, a potential boost in law enforcement confidence came this month from an unlikely source, a per curiam opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Per curiam (Latin: by the Court) decisions are judgments by appellate courts as a whole in which no particular judge or Justice is identified as the author. In the Supreme Court per curiam opinions are almost always unanimous and usually represent brief rulings on non-controversial subjects. They tend to be short. They seldom set an important precedent or alter the rule of law.

But there are exceptions. In 1972 the per curiam opinion by the Court in Furman v. Georgia turned capital punishment upside down when it struck down every death penalty law and practice in the country as arbitrary and capricious under the 8th Amendment. It took four years for the states to re-institute death penalty statutes and, in many ways, the case began to diminish the role of the supreme penalty which continues to this day.

Bush v. Gore

In Bush v. Gore (2000) the Court issued a per curiam opinion in one of the most controversial cases in the Court’s history. The Court upheld the razor-thin Florida vote which gave the presidency to George Bush by a single electoral vote over Al Gore. The 5-4 vote followed party lines with the Republican appointed Justices in the majority, but the ruling was brief and unauthored.  Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz called it the “single most corrupt decision in Supreme Court history,” but others thought it was a profile in courage which preserved the republic.

new_mexico_state_police

Earlier this month the Court decided another per curiam opinion which has gotten much less attention but which could have profound implications, especially to law enforcement officers on the front line. White v. Pauly was an appeal from a civil ruling by a federal district court against New Mexico State Police Officer Ray White, who had shot and killed Samuel Pauley in a police confrontation outside of Santa Fe.

Witnesses had called 911 to report Pauley as a drunk driver. Two police officers went to his residence where he lived with his brother Daniel Pauly in a secluded area to talk with Pauly. They ordered him to open the door.  It was asserted in the complaint that the brothers had not heard the officers identify themselves. The Paulys got their firearms.

A few minutes after the initial confrontation, Officer White arrived at the scene outside of the Pauly residence. The Paulys yelled that they had guns and Daniel fired two shotgun blasts outside the back door. Samuel stuck his handgun outside a window in the front of the house and pointed it in the officers’ direction. All three of the officers took cover, White behind a stone wall. One of the initial two officers fired his gun at Pauly and missed. Officer White fired and killed Samuel Pauly.

In the civil suit the three officers asserted qualified immunity, But the plaintiffs responded that the defense was not available since court opinions in other circumstances had stated that a warning was required before the use of deadly force even under the threat of serious harm. Officer White could not reasonably assume that this warning had taken place before his arrival. The district court agreed and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling and ordered the case to go to trial. Officer White appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Court unanimously vacated this decision without oral argument in a brief per curiam opinion. Officer White had violated no clearly established law requiring a police officer facing an occupant pointing a firearm at him to identify himself and shout a warning before firing his weapon.

The Court pointed out that qualified immunity for law enforcement officers is important to society as a whole. Pre-existing law must give them fair and clear notice of impermissible conduct in order to invalidate the assertion of qualified immunity. Officer White’s conduct under the circumstances, especially his late arrival after the other officers had engaged the subjects, did not violate clearly established law. He could reasonably conclude in an ongoing police action that proper procedures had already been followed.

The case has been criticized as giving police a “license to kill.” But Supreme Court Justices are aware of the issues of the day. They watch TV. Maybe they are sending a signal that the courts should not second-guess law enforcement officers who have to make split second decisions on the use of deadly force by weakening qualified immunity.

Or perhaps they are just tired of the judiciary being asked to make social policy on confrontations between police and potentially dangerous subjects in the context of law suits against police.

Or maybe, like most garden variety per curiam opinions, the case represents a narrow ruling on a unique set of facts with little or no policy-making implications.