Taos County sheriff addresses accusations following Red River shooting
TAOS COUNTY, N.M. — Taos County Sheriff Steve Miera responded to accusations Friday against his department following a deadly shootout at the Red River Memorial Day Motorcycle Rally.
“With the very limited resources that the Taos County Sheriff’s Office had, we did an outstanding job in successfully completing and getting through the weekend,” Sheriff Miera said.
Miera says he first learned about the anger towards his department during a community meeting in Red River Wednesday. During that meeting, Red River Marshal James Johnson told residents he refused to pay the county to supply deputies for the rally – which is estimated to have attracted more than 25,000 visitors.
“They wanted me to pay for their, a contract to pay for their officers to come work in Taos County,” Johnson said. “I thought that that was a slap in my face to have to pay Taos County to come work in Taos County. This year I wasn’t going to do it.”
Johnson’s accusations resonated with some residents who were concerned about minimal law enforcement presence during the rally Saturday. Three people were killed, five were injured in a shootout Saturday night between two motorcycle gangs – the Waterdogs and the Bandidos.
“Why in the hell would we have to pay the sheriff’s department to come out here to do their damn job?” questioned Rob Shaw during the meeting.
Sheriff Miera says he has never solicited anything from Red River – including payment to supply deputies.
“As the Taos County Sheriff, and since I’ve taken over as the Taos County Sheriff, I have never once solicited or asked for anything from Red River,” Miera said.
Miera says there were contracts between the sheriff’s office and Red River during previous rallies. He says he is not privy to the details of those contracts and added those were agreements between a previous sheriff and a previous town marshal.
Miera is also challenging allegations deputies were not in Red River before the shooting. The sheriff revealed eight deputies conducted walkthroughs at bars and liquor stores in Red River Friday night.
He says the locations were allegedly claimed by members of biker gangs. Miera says his deputies did not discover anything that raised concerns.
Miera added the sheriff’s office was not informed about the town’s security plans leading up to this year’s motorcycle rally.
“Not once did the Red River marshal’s office or the town of Red River share their operational plans or the contingencies with the sheriff’s office,” Sheriff Miera said.
Miera says all of his 22 deputies were conducting traffic operations across the county during the shooting. Miera noted in a written statement Taos County is roughly 2,200 square miles in size, and his department is responsible for the safety of all its residents.
“You cannot forget that the rest of Taos County was impacted by this as well, and the rest of Taos county is what I’m responsible for,” the sheriff said.
Miera says many of his deputies immediately responded to the shooting by establishing an outer perimeter around Red River.
Miera says New Mexico State Police officers handled the active investigation inside the town. Miera says some of his deputies were also used to secure Holy Cross Hospital in Taos.
“We had received information that some of the ambulances were being followed by these individuals. Therefore, it was pertinent and prudent to lock down the hospital,” he said.
Miera acknowledged in a written statement there are lessons to be learned from the incident. He says he would like to see communication improved moving forward, and he says that includes communication between Red River Marshals and Red River residents.
Despite the anger from residents, Sheriff Miera defended his department’s response and welcomes any potential investigations from Red River officials. Miera also commended the nearly 12 other law enforcement agencies that responded to the shooting.
“Everything came together, like as it should have been,” he said. “It was well rehearsed. These are all well-trained departments, and they did exactly what they were supposed to.”