Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 p.m. MST
- BALLOON FIESTA-FAA RULE
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Organizers of Albuquerque's international balloon fiesta are seeking a waiver from federal aviation officials, saying a requirement that aircraft have specific tracking technology could affect the annual event. The Federal Aviation Administration rule affects most of the airspace above New Mexico's largest city. The agency granted a waiver for last year's fiesta, and event officials tell the Albuquerque Journal they are seeking a similar exemption for this year's 50th anniversary celebration. Balloonists say the rule remains a problem as it prevents passengers from getting expansive views from higher flights and bars pilots from more scenic locations such as the Rio Grande.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Federal officials have come up with a list of potential replacement names for hundreds of geographic features in three dozen states that include the word "squaw." U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in November formally declared the term derogatory and initiated a process to remove the term from use by the federal government and to replace other existing derogatory place names. The list was announced Tuesday and includes sites in New Mexico, Arizona, California and many other states. The agency will host virtual meetings to consult with tribes in March. A task force will prioritize the replacement names and make recommendations to the Board on Geographic Names before it meets later this year.
- SCHOOL SECURITY GUARD-SEXUAL ABUSE
LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — A former Las Vegas, New Mexico, school security guard has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a female student. The Las Vegas Optic reports 53-year-old Abran Ulibarri pleaded guilty Monday to criminal sexual penetration of a minor, three counts of false imprisonment, criminal solicitation to commit tampering with evidence and bribery of a witness. Attorney General Hector Balderas announced the agreement, commending the 14-year-old victim for coming forward. Las Vegas police initially investigated the allegations but then the state took over. Investigators say Ulibarri and the girl, a student at West Las Vegas Middle School, had a sexual relationship for months in 2019 Ulibarri faces up to 10 years in prison.
- ALBUQUERQUE-OVERNIGHT CRIME SPREE
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque police say a man accused of a trail of crimes including home invasions, car jackings and three kidnappings remains on the loose. Authorities say the suspect went on a crime spree beginning late Sunday night near Elm Street and Thaxton Avenue. The man allegedly broke into a home and forced a woman to drive with him in her car. He then left her at another home where he opened fire and fled in a vehicle from there. He is accused of then abducting two women in their car from a gas station. They were later found. They say the man then broke into a third home and took a car there.
- PANDEMIC AID BIDS CANCELED
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — City officials in Las Cruces have canceled results of a process that solicited bids from organizations seeking federal pandemic aid, after an audit found procurement code violations and inconsistent project eligibility practices. The Las Cruces Sun News reports that a Feb. 17 email to bidders said the selection process had been canceled in the "best interest of the city." But the newspaper says the City Council still can act Tuesday to approve funding to nine recommended projects chosen from among 21 bidders. The newspaper says a city Internal Audit Office report in January found multiple procurement violations and little documentation from panel members since bidding began in September.
- CHURCH PASTOR-SEX CRIMES ARREST
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A 59-year-old church pastor and former elementary school teacher from Las Vegas has been arrested in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on a warrant accusing him of sex crimes involving children. The Albuquerque Journal reports that Reynaldo Crespin was arrested Saturday and jailed pending an extradition hearing and his transfer in custody to Nevada. Court records in Las Vegas show that Crespin was named in a warrant issued Feb. 10 on multiple charges including sexual assault against children under ages 16 and 14. Reports in Las Vegas identify Crespin as a second-grade teacher from 2016 until this month and a pastor at New Horizon Christian Church.
- AP-NM-ALBUQUERQUE POLICE STAFFING
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Police officers in Albuquerque are shifting to a 12-hour schedule to help increase staffing levels on patrol. Police Chief Harold Medina tells Albuquerque TV station KRQE that the vast majority of officers support the 12-hour shift. As of December, the Albuquerque Police Department had 926 officers. The department has had a budgeted goal of 1,140 sworn-in officers since Mayor Tim Keller took office in 2016 when there were 833 officers. The department has 1,000 police officers last year. Keller made it a campaign promise that he would try and hire 100 officers every year of his term.
- EASTERN NEW MEXICO UNIVERSITY-PRESIDENT
PORTALES, N.M. (AP) — The president of Eastern New Mexico University has announced plans to retire this summer. Patrice Caldwell has spent more than four decades working for the university. She started as a faculty member, and served in various department leadership roles before becoming president. Caldwell told the Board of Regents on Friday that she will retire on July 1. The board says it already has started a nationwide search for her replacement. Nearly 5,000 students were enrolled at the university's main campus in Portales last fall. The university also has campuses in Ruidoso and Roswell.