The news is out: [RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — A former police officer in New Mexico was charged Thursday with second-degree murder after authorities said he killed a Latino detainee he had placed in a chokehold.
State Attorney General Hector Balderas said he filed the charges against former Las Cruces police officer Christopher Smelser in the death of Antonio Valenzuela.
Police say Smelser applied the chokehold after a foot chase in February when Valenzuela fled during a traffic stop.
After the chase, Smelser can be heard on police video saying, “I’m going to (expletive) choke you out, bro.”
Valenzuela was pronounced dead at the scene. The coroner determined he died from asphyxial injuries.
Smelser, who is white, was initially charged with manslaughter and later fired.
In a statement, Balderas said he was taking over the prosecution of Smelser from the Third Judicial District Attorney’s office in Las Cruces and “focusing on appropriate charges for violent and dangerous chokeholds.”
Smelser’s attorney, Amy L. Orlando, called the new charge sad and suggested it was a political move meant to grab headlines.
“Officer Smelser used a technique that was sanctioned by the department. He was trained in the technique. And of a sudden it’s banned after and he’s a criminal,” Orlando told The Associated Press.]
Not the first, won’t be the last.