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Local and State News

Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 5:20 p.m. MDT


RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — A former police officer in New Mexico has been charged with second-degree murder after authorities say he killed a Latino detainee he had placed in a chokehold. State Attorney General Hector Balderas said Thursday he has filed the charge against former Las Cruces police Officer Christopher Smelser in the death of Antonio Valenzuela. Police say Smelser applied the chokehold after a foot chase in February when Valenzuela fled during a traffic stop. Smelser was initially charged with manslaughter and later fired. Smelser's attorney, Amy L. Orlando, did not immediately return a phone message.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The nation's top nuclear security official is in New Mexico to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the the world's first atomic explosion. The test is both revered for the scientific advancements it helped to usher in and vilified for the moral and diplomatic implications that still linger in its wake. Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, says the Trinity Test in 1945 helped to avert wars and saved untold millions of lives over the years through advancements in nuclear medicine and science. For others, the atomic test in southern New Mexico and subsequent tests elsewhere have left a painful legacy. 


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — People who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Arizona are being transferred to New Mexico hospitals because of staffing shortages and a lack of bed space, under a federal law that requires hospitals to accept patients from neighboring states if beds are available. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the transfer of out-of-state patients poses challenges as some hospitals in the state are at or nearing capacity levels. It is unclear exactly how many Arizona patients have been transferred to New Mexico. State health officials on Thursday reported an additional 300 cases, bringing the statewide total to nearly 16,140. The death toll stands at 562.


RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small is maintaining a money edge in a critical U.S. House race in southern New Mexico that Republicans hope to recapture. Federal campaign records show the Las Cruces Democrats raised nearly $796,000 from mid-May to June 30 and had $3.9 million cash-on-hand. Her campaign coffer has more than 10 times the amount of Yvette Herrell, her GOP challenger. Records show Herrell raised more than $395,000 during the same period following a grueling GOP primary. The former state lawmaker reported having $379,000 cash-on-hand. Torres Small defeated Herrell by less than 4,000 votes in 2018 to flip a traditionally Republican-leaning district along the U.S.-Mexico border.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Water managers in Santa Fe say expected low flows along the Rio Grande will likely force the temporary shutdown of diversions as early as this weekend. Officials with the Buckman diversion project say the river's flow is expected to drop rapidly once the last of the water stored for irrigation in the Middle Rio Grande Valley has been used. They say river conditions at the Buckman diversion location north of Santa Fe will be monitored closely. If flows reach or go below 300 cubic feet per second, diversions will be temporarily halted.


SAN DIEGO (AP) — Critics of the Trump administration's most sweeping set of rules to restrict asylum in the United States have sent in a deluge of comments opposing the effort. They hope an old law that serves as a check on presidential power will weaken or even doom it. The government's proposal would make it much more difficult to get asylum and drew nearly 80,000 public comments before a Wednesday deadline. The administration must address every concern in its final version. The proposal directs immigration judges to be more selective about granting asylum claims and allows them to deny some without a court hearing. 


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A much-criticized New Mexico sheriff who has led an office facing racial profiling lawsuits and has refused to force deputies to wear body cameras says his office will instead use smartphones. Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales told reporters Wednesday he is looking to partner with a company so deputies can put smartphones in their vests and record video. Last week, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill requiring all law enforcement to wear body cameras. But Gonzales calls the current technology archaic and says it's too costly. Gonzales has faced criticism for refusing to force deputies to wear body cams amid a string of deputy shootings.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Justice Michael Vigil has taken over as New Mexico's top judge.Vigil was sworn in for a two-year-term as chief justice on Wednesday after he was selected by his colleagues on the five-member New Mexico Supreme Court. The chief justice presides over Supreme Court hearings and is the top administrative officer for the New Mexico judiciary, including personnel and and budgets. He says in a statement that his first priority is to work on keeping courts open during the COVID-19 pandemic while keeping courthouse staff and visitors healthy. Vigil takes over as chief justice from Judith Nakamura, who remains on the court but plans to retire later this year.