2 New Mexico counties to discuss improvements to pretrial services
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Authorities say Dominic De La O is responsible for killing Alamogordo Police Officer Anthony Ferguson.
Police say he shot Ferguson in the face with a sawed-off shotgun as officers were trying to pursue him.
Another officer returned fire and hit De La O in the leg. He was treated and is now in the Otero County Detention Center.
But, for the past couple years, De La O bounced in and out of jail while waiting for trial in various cases.
The District Attorney in Alamogordo says there is a major flaw in the criminal justice system.
“That’s a weakness. It’s a true weakness,” said Otero County District Attorney Scot Key.
Key says De La O didn’t qualify for pretrial detention because allegations of DWI, drugs, running from the cops, and pointing a gun to his own head – lead to non-violent charges.
“De La O was out and about with only conditions of release on a paper,” said Key.
Key says the judge told De La O to follow certain rules.
“Keep in contact with your attorney on a weekly basis. No drugs, no alcohol, no partying, a curfew was in-place at one point in one time. You can’t be out of your house between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.. You know, how do you watch that? So it’s a condition of release that has no teeth,” Key said.
Time and time again, De La O was allowed out of jail and asked to follow stricter rules without supervision.
“To make it work, even with its shortcomings, you have to have some people watching people,” said Key.
Soon someone will be watching.
“We want to do it right, so it takes awhile,” said Artie Pepin with the Administration Office of the Courts.
Pepin says they are going around the state to implement more robust pretrial services.
“We ensure the hiring of dedicated pretrial service officers, program managers to run the program, and make sure that the resources they have are adequate to the population they serve,” said Pepin.
He says lawmakers have allocated millions of dollars to hire people to expand 24 hours ankle monitoring across the state, and more closely follow people like De La O in the future.
Pepin points to stats that show 5% of people of the thousands put on pretrial services get caught for violent crimes.
“What we do know is that we are better off under an evidence-based pretrial release system than without it,” said Pepin.
In Ferguson’s neighborhood, the additional help is welcomed.
“We don’t want to have more of these tragedies, so I think we’re all speaking the same language,” said Key.
Lincoln and Otero County are scheduled to have their first meeting to discuss how they want to bolster their pretrial services in August.
Pepin says the pretrial services’ rollout should be complete statewide by the end of the 2025 fiscal year.
Another problem in this case is De La O’s alleged drug use. Police say his own mom knew he was doing meth.