Rio Arriba Sheriff Under Investigation

Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan is accused of showing up drunk at a SWAT standoff and refusing to leave despite commands from officers.

The Española Police Department has charged Lujan with resisting, evading or obstructing an officer.

Lujan was not wearing his uniform when he arrived Saturday at a home in the 600 block of Baker Lane, where a man accused of stabbing someone earlier that day had barricaded himself inside, according to a criminal complaint written by Española police Chief Roger Jimenez.

When Jimenez asked Lujan why he was there, he said, “This is my country,” the complaint states.

“I immediately smelled a strong odor of alcohol emitting from the sheriff’s breath and person,” Jimenez wrote in the complaint. “He was also chewing gum frantically but it was not masking the odor of alcohol.”

Police went to the home to execute a search warrant for an RV trailer where they believed Phillip Chacon had stabbed a man. Officers heard a gunshot before seeing Chacon running toward them holding several rifles, which he dropped before running inside his house, according to court documents.

In a telephone interview Thursday evening, Lujan said the accusations in the criminal complaint are false.

“The only thing I was concerned about was the safety of Mr. Chacon and everybody else, and if it was that much of a deal, I wouldn’t have gone there,” Lujan said. “I know he wouldn’t have hurt anybody. I know he has problems and issues.”

Officers and the New Mexico State Police SWAT team set up a perimeter around the home and had their guns pointed at the door. Lujan went into the “hot zone” over the objections of other officers, the criminal complaint states.

Lujan banged on the door and yelled for Chacon to come out. When Chacon didn’t comply, Lujan walked away from the house, the complaint states.

“Sheriff Lujan’s actions were not only dangerous and reckless, he created another hazard by [distracting] the officers on the inner perimeter,” the criminal complaint states. “Due to Sheriff Lujan’s actions, officers’ concentration was taken away from their assigned points of danger areas of the house.”

After Jimenez told him to not cross the police line again, Lujan told him he was communicating with Chacon and showed him two text messages he claimed were from the man saying he was no longer at the house.

He believes this was another attempt by Lujan to get officers to leave the scene by making them believe Chacon was no longer there, Jimenez wrote in the criminal complaint.

Chacon eventually surrendered and was arrested.

Lujan previously faced allegations that he helped Chacon flee the state to avoid arrest, according to the complaint.

“Because of this information it is obvious by Sheriff Lujan’s actions he was attempting to do the same in this case,” the complaint states. “By distracting the officers in the inner perimeter, possibly giving Mr. Chacon an opportunity to flee.”

Lujan said this is also untrue and that he has a professional relationship with Chacon from interacting with him in the community.

His main concern, Lujan said, was to make sure Chacon was not hurt. He said he knows of several incidents in the past year that were captured on lapel footage where Española officers were seen hurting people.


News Reporter