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Police ask Bloomfield council to change trespass ordinance
Alleged sexual assault in Salmon Park spurs request
BLOOMFIELD — The alleged sexual assault of a teenage girl in a Bloomfield park this summer was cited during a City Council meeting Monday as an example of why an ordinance should be strengthened.
Police say suspect Elton Benally, 40, had been kicked out of several parks in Bloomfield, as well as a couple of gas stations on separate occasions this year before he allegedly groped the girl.
The proposed ordinance change would allow police to ban people from multiple locations for a year. Police Lt. Randon Matthews said someone engaging in criminal activity in a park could be banned from city property if the ordinance change is approved.
"It will really reduce some of the problems we have with habitual offenders going from park to park," Matthews said during the council meeting.
Matthews said the changes would mirror the language in a state statute. City Attorney Ryan Lane reviewed the proposed changes before they were presented to council.
The City Council unanimously approved publishing an intent to adopt notice for the change. That move will allow the council to vote on the measure at a future meeting.
During a phone interview today, Matthews said officers received a call around 6 p.m. June 19 from a teenager who alleged Benally had grabbed her buttocks and asked to touch her breasts.
Matthews said the girl had been lying on a picnic table in Salmon Park with her friend when Benally allegedly came up behind them and touched her back. He said Benally then reached up and grabbed her buttocks while she was trying to move away.
When interviewed by officers, Benally denied touching the girl inappropriately, but said he had asked to touch her breasts, according to Matthews.
Matthews said there were many witnesses in the park, and one of them loaned the girl a cell phone that she used to call the police.
Benally was arrested that day and faces a fourth-degree felony charge of criminal sexual contact of a minor. The next court hearing is a pretrial conference scheduled for 8 a.m. Nov. 13 in district court.
Matthews said the incident highlighted the need for increased patrols in the parks. He said the police department has increased the number of officers patrolling parks.
"What would have happened if nobody else was there?" he said.
The City Council is also considering eliminating ordinances related to curfews, public intoxication and dog licenses. Bloomfield Police Chief Randy Foster said the curfew ordinance and the public intoxication portion of the disorderly conduct ordinance were unenforceable.
He said the dog licensing ordinance is not enforced enough to justify its existence. Foster said fewer than 10 dogs, including his pet, are licensed in the city of Bloomfield.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.