Police: Bounty hunter threatened fugitive's home

James Lee Fitzgerald has been charged with aggravated burglary and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, as well as breaking and entering

Steve Garrison
James Fitzgerald

FARMINGTON — A 32-year-old bounty hunter was arrested on allegations he pointed a shotgun at a homeowner in San Juan County while attempting to arrest a woman on a misdemeanor warrant.

James Lee Fitzgerald was charged June 15 in Aztec Magistrate Court with aggravated burglary and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, as well as breaking and entering.

Fitzgerald, who was reached by telephone Thursday, declined to comment.

His attorney, Steve Murphy, said today that he was not sure why Fitzgerald was arrested.

"This is a job that society needs people to do," Murphy said, adding later. "It's a necessary evil that we have these fugitive recovery agents. The Marshals Service, they only go after the biggest and the baddest."

Deputies with the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched at approximately 8 p.m. June 14 to a residence on County Road 2635 north of Aztec after receiving reports of a heated dispute, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

The deputies learned three fugitive recovery agents, including Fitzgerald, were at the residence to execute a misdemeanor warrant for a woman wanted in Colorado, the affidavit states.

A deputy advised the parties that the sheriff’s office did not represent a side in the dispute, but he also warned the recovery agents there were children in the residence, according to the affidavit.

The deputies left, but returned to the residence five minutes later after receiving reports of a break-in, the affidavit states.

Deputies found Fitzgerald at the scene armed with a pump-action shotgun and a holstered pistol, according to the affidavit.

The homeowner told deputies Fitzgerald used the butt of the shotgun to break a window and then pointed the gun at him.

Fitzgerald told deputies the shotgun was loaded with pepper balls, and claimed a badge identifying him as a fugitive recovery agent was visible.

Fitzgerald said he pointed the shotgun into the residence to make use of a flashlight that was attached to its barrel, according to the affidavit.

Deputies noted in the affidavit that Fitzgerald was attempting to serve a non-extraditable warrant.

Fitzgerald was arrested at the scene.

Fitzgerald was previously charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and impersonating an officer on allegations he pointed a gun at two men near his home on Aug. 7, 2010, according to court records.

He also flashed a badge, which read "fugitive recovery," at the men and referred to himself as "officer Fitzgerald," records state.

He pleaded guilty on April 11, 2011, to impersonating an officer, a misdemeanor, and served 60 days in jail, according to records.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.