Stop Catch and Release Rally is scheduled Tuesday

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FARMINGTON — A group of community residents is hosting a rally against the recent change in rules regarding pretrial detention and release of defendants, arguing too many repeat offenders are on the streets.

The Stop Catch and Release Rally is scheduled for 7 to 9 a.m. Tuesday on the southwest corner of the intersection of South Oliver Avenue and West Aztec Boulevard in Aztec, near the Aztec district courthouse building.

Diane Hathcock is one of the organizers of the rally. She said Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, and San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen are scheduled to speak at the event.

Hathcock was prompted to help organize the rally because she believes the new rules put violent offenders back on the street, citing the death of William Wilson, who was killed on Aug. 27 by gunshots fired by a New Mexico State Police officer and a deputy for the San Juan County Sheriff's Office.

She also said she wants to support local law enforcement agencies. 

"We came this close," Hathcock said. "We almost (had) a couple of police officers that didn't make it home."

Wilson was killed by shots fired by officers around 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 27 during a traffic stop at Citizens Bank at 4220 Hudson St.

Law enforcement officials said Wilson retrieved a gun after being handcuffed and fired one shot into the upper-left part of the officer's chest. The deputy and the officer then fired an unknown number of shots at Wilson, striking him numerous times.

More: DA's Office had requested man killed by police remain in custody

Hathcock said she did not vote on the proposed constitutional amendment during the Nov. 8 general election that led to the new rules from the New Mexico Supreme Court to guide pretrial detention and release for defendants.

Statewide, more than 87 percent of New Mexico residents who voted were in favor of the amendment and nearly 85 percent of San Juan County residents who voted were also in favor of the amendment, according to the New Mexico Secretary of State's Office website.

Described as a "bail reform effort," the new rules allow judges to detain people without bond who might be dangerous to the public and to grant pretrial release to defendants who pose no flight risk or risk to the community.

The rules were developed based on input by an Ad Hoc Pretrial Release Committee formed by the state Supreme Court.

The group, including jail officials, defense attorneys, legislators, defense attorneys and judges, studied existing pretrial release law and practice, then made recommendations to improve the system.

Hathcock believes the new system is a very serious waste of resources under which officers are not only looking for "new bad guys," but they have to look out for "old bad guys."

"I just really feel as taxpayers, we need to feel safe," Hathcock said.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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