New Mexico Sheriff Faces 2 Probes for Trying to Block DWI Arrest

PHOTO: A Mora County Sheriffs Office deputy lost his job earlier this month after resisting orders from the sheriff to release a man suspected of DWI.
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New Mexico's attorney general and a county district attorney are investigating to determine whether criminal charges should be brought against a sheriff caught on audio tape trying to force a deputy to release his friend from a DWI arrest.

"We are looking at criminal wrong doing to see if there are any criminal charges to follow through on," Mora County District Attorney Richard Flores told ABCNews.com.

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King said his office is just starting to look into the case.

"I expect that our office will take some action because it's really not acceptable to me to have a law enforcement officer directing his subordinates to give different people different treatment under the same law," he said.

The two prosecutors are referring to a dispute when Mora County Sheriff's Deputy Lee Allingham says he was battered April 7 by Mora County Sheriff Thomas Garza after arresting Patrick Trujillo for DWI, according to a report by New Mexico State Police.

Allingham, 22, said he needed to take Trujillo to Alta Vista Hospital quickly for a blood draw, but according to the report Garza told him to "chill out."

In an audio recording of the altercation, recorded on another deputy's iPhone, Allingham is heard telling Garza that he is taking Trujillo in for a DWI.

"Oh no you're not," Garza said. "You do what I say and that's it."

"You have no authority interfering with my cases," Allingham said.

"I am the sheriff here, you're not," Garza said.

"I can do what I want. Nobody can tell me what to do," Garza said. "If I want to release him, I will release him."

"No, you can't do that," Allingham said.

Another deputy had to break the two men apart, according to the report. Garza then allegedly twisted Allingham's arm, grabbed the collar of the other deputy and pushed him.

Garza, however, told investigators Allingham pushed him against a book shelf.

The sheriff said he was in fear of his life because Allingham was armed and having what appeared to be a "mental meltdown," according to the police report. Allingham was being belligerent and Garza had never seen him like that, he said.

Neither Allingham nor Garza could be reached for comment.

During the altercation, Garza told Allingham he was fired and to turn in his equipment.

Allingham, who was employed at the Mora County Sheriff's Office for 10 months, has been written up and suspended before, Garza said in the report.

Garza was not on duty at the time of the April 7 arrest. He told investigators he was on his way to church but wanted to make sure things were done correctly to avoid tort claims on his department.

Garza said he was going to release Trujillo to prove to Allingham he was the boss, according to the report.

When asked by investigators if he knew Trujillo, Garza said "he had seen him around but did not know him," according to the report. He also admitted that Trujillo is the ex-husband of a communications specialist in his office who was on duty during the altercation.

Trujillo was arrested for his second DWI. Garza admitted to investigators that he was wrong to tell another deputy to release him. According to the report, Garza said he could smell alcohol on Trujillo.

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