Columbus, New Mexico struggles after gun-smuggling case wipes out leadership

From the El Paso - By Reyes Mata III - COLUMBUS -- When federal agencies raided this small New Mexico town last year to stop a gun-smuggling operation they allege was sending guns into Mexico's drug war, they left a trail of indictments that gutted city leadership -- including the police department -- and turned residents leery of having outside law enforcement patrol it. "There were two police early this morning giving tickets, making people late for work," complained Alejandro Zapata, a resident of Columbus for more than 20 years. He pointed to a street corner where, he said, New Mexico State Police were handing out citations last week. "People said somebody put out a report that we needed more police. We don't. We have our policeman, and it's Ojeda. We don't need any more than him." The Ojeda to whom he is referring is Jose Ojeda, a corporal from the Luna County Sheriff's Department who, in July, was reassigned from Deming to patrol Columbus, about 50 miles to the south. Ojeda has been patrolling the estimated 750 homes in Columbus since July 7. That's the day the Village Council voted to dissolve its police department after Police Chief Angelo Vega, Mayor Eddie Espinoza, and trustee Blas Gutierrez were among 11 defendants charged in an 84-count federal indictment that ultimately linked them to the gun-smuggling operation. Read more


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