Longtime NMSP captain declares run to be Doña Ana County's next sheriff

Justin Garcia
Las Cruces Sun-News
James Frietze posing for a photo outside of the Sun-News Building on Sept. 30, 2021. Frietze is running in the 2022 Dona Ana County Sherrif's election.

LAS CRUCES - James Frietze's first mission with a New Mexico State Police tactical team was one to remember. 

It was the late spring of 1998. Three men — described by police as anti-government survivalists — gunned down a police officer in a quiet Colorado town. The killing began six days of bloodshed as the gunmen wounded two area sheriff's deputies before fleeing into the rugged brush of the Four Corners. 

What followed is considered to be one of the largest manhunts in modern American history. Hundreds of people from half a dozen police agencies, including Frietze and NMSP, flooded the area for weeks. James Frietze was right in the middle of it all. 

"It was a quick lesson in growing up and field tactics and stuff. But yeah, that was my first mission," he said. 

Frietze, a democrat, is beginning another first. He is one of the first people to announce a run to become the next Doña Ana County Sheriff.

While voters won't have an opportunity to choose a candidate for the sheriff's office until 2022, Frietze said he's been considering a run for office for a while. He said he was encouraged by a group of peers this year. 

"A lot of people have said 'you're what the sheriff's department needs at this time,'" Frietze said. "And it's nothing on the past sheriffs, they did with what they did with the knowledge they have."

Frietze said his wife's support was also critical in his decision to run. 

"I talked to my wife and I said 'hey, it's coming back again. People are asking me (to run).' And I asked her, 'what do you think?'" Frietze said. 

With the support of his wife and friends, Frietze plunged into the race with a Facebook post and Sun-News interview announcing his candidacy in September. 

Prior to launching his campaign for DASO sheriff, Frietze spent a lifetime with the state police. Since 1998, Frietze went from patrolman to captain before honorably retiring from the state police in 2019. He currently works as a private investigator in the Las Cruces area, where his family holds deep roots. 

Frietze said that he hails from a clan of mid-19th century German immigrants who settled in the Mesilla Valley. The newer branches of his family tree are also highly decorated with military and police service

In an interview with the Sun-News in September, Frietze said that sees the role of the sheriff as someone who can unify the patchwork of police agencies. From Sunland Park Police Department to Border Patrol, Frietze said that DASO is uniquely situated to act as the glue that helps the police agencies work together. 

He said that he could rely on his experience as an NMSP administrator to help foster these partnerships. 

"Somebody has to grab the bull by the horns and say, let's come to the table and discuss this," he said. 

Frietze started campaign season early, so the field of candidates is unclear. For example, the current sheriff, Frietze's fellow democrat Kim Stewart, said that she hasn't decided if she will run for a second term. Stewart was elected to the job in 2018. 

But that hasn't stopped Frietze from putting his attention into the race, from interviews to Facebook posts and campaign events, Frietze has started his campaign in earnest. He's hosting a fundraising event and candidate meet and greet Dec. 2 at Los Compas Restaurant in Las Cruces.  

Justin Garcia is a public safety reporter for the Las Cruces Sun-News. He can be reached at JEGarcia@lcsun-news.com or on Twitter @Just516garc.

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