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Tag: New Mexico

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.

Ken Walton, the Most Flamboyant SAC Ever to Head FBI Detroit Division, Dead at 76

Ken Walton

Ken Walton

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT — Kenneth P. Walton, whose career as an FBI agent spanned 24 years, and who was regarded inside and outside the bureau as the most flamboyant person ever to head the Detroit FBI, died late last month in New Mexico after a battle with cancer. He was 76.

Walton, who headed the Detroit FBI from 1985 to 1988, oversaw some key investigations during his tenure in Detroit including a high-profile FBI sting that resulted in the indictments and guilty pleas of a number of crooked Detroit judges from 36th District and Recorder’s courts. After Detroit, he moved on to headquarters and retired in 1989.

“He loved the FBI and was a workaholic,” said retired FBI agent John Anthony, who worked at the time as legal advisor to the Detroit office and press spokesman. “I would usually get in at around 7 a.m. He was there in the office at 5:30 or 6 o’ clock everyday. He had a keen mind for investigations. He knew personnel. He knew who the hard workers were. He was a good organizer.”

Publicly, he had a TV-like image with his full-head of hair, which always seemed perfectly in place, much like the TV character Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in the TV show, The F.B.I.

He was articulate and dapper, often dressing in French-cuffed shirts his wife designed. In the colder months, he would be seen with a trench coat over his shoulders, which earned him the nickname “The Cape Crusader.”

He also wasn’t shy about expressing his views, and he ended up bumping heads with then-U.S. Attorney Roy C. Hayes. He made no secret of his dislike for Hayes.

Ross Parker, a retired federal prosecutor who was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office under Hayes, recalled the first time he walked into Walton’s FBI office.

“It was like walking into the Ken Walton Museum,” he said. “There were hundreds of photos of him with well known people and plaques covering every square inch of wall.”

“Non-Bureau law enforcement people did not always agree with his views but you had to admire his confidence and willingness to take a position. An example was the investigation of local judges. While some were ringing their hands over the undercover methods, he was full-steam-ahead and he made some innovative suggestions. He was charismatic, controversial, and did everything with flair.”

Many agents admired him.

“He was a legend,” said retired FBI Agent Terry Booth. “He was old school. Everybody liked him.  He seemed to back the agents and they loved him for it.”

Walton was sometimes criticized for flocking to TV cameras like a moth to light, and having a large ego.

“He was flashy, no doubt about it,” Anthony said.

But Anthony said it was really about getting the FBI publicity.

“He felt the FBI needed to be in the media because the public needed to know what the FBI was all about,” Anthony said, adding:

“You won’t see another one like him.”

Walton was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

He is survived by his wife, Charlotte; brother Jim of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin; and various in-laws and friends, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Border Patrol Agent Shoots Drug-Smuggling Suspect After Confrontation

border patrol 3By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A physical confrontation with a Border Patrol agent didn’t end well for a suspected drug smuggler Monday morning near the Arizona-New Mexico border, the Arizona Daily Star reports.

The agent shot and wounded the suspect at about 10:45 a.m. in New Mexico

Agents were looking for suspects who fled a vehicle containing drugs when the incident began.

The suspect’s condition wasn’t immediately known, but the person was flown to an undisclosed hospital.