AP NEWS

Santa Fe deputy chief says police can better respond to service calls after report of ammo on playground

May 16, 2019

After an internal review, officials with the Santa Fe Police Department blamed a busy morning for a nearly three-hour delay late last month in responding to reports of ammunition and possibly a gun left on a Santa Fe playground.

“At the time, all of our resources were allocated to other calls for service,” Deputy Chief Ben Valdez said of the April 27 incident.

Despite the logjam, Valdez said, “we can do better.”

That Saturday afternoon, Santa Fe resident Nichole Salazar and her 3-year-old son, Liam, drove to Pueblos del Sol playground from their nearby home. When Liam jumped off a shallow platform, his feet landed in what Salazar described as a cache of hundreds of boxed bullets. A black bag nearby, she said, looked as if it might contain a gun.

Salazar called police at 1:34 p.m., but it took two hours before officers arrived at the park, on the corner of Governor Miles Road and Nizhoni Drive on the city’s south side.

In the meantime, dispatchers told Salazar she could go home.

“I was very upset,” Salazar, 35, said two days after the incident. “… If I leave, then it’s on to another parent or another child to come and find this.”

Valdez said that despite the busy morning, patrol supervisors should have taken charge of the situation — by calling Salazar directly to further assess what she found, by requesting that she send photographs of the cache to rule out the presence of a gun and by generally allaying her fears.

“We know we could do a better job, and we’re going to do a better job,” Valdez said. “There’s no way for us to look at this and not look at ways to improve.”

Call logs and audio recordings from the Regional Emergency Communications Center, obtained by The New Mexican through a public records request, revealed Salazar was the second person to call in the cache that afternoon.

Another man, a father who identified himself as Brett, first reported the ammunition — along with what he said looked like a bag of marijuana — at 12:42 p.m. According to the logs, officers did not arrive on scene until 3:30 p.m.

They did not find a bag or a gun, according to an incident report. But they did find boxes of ammunition for four models of rifle, bullets for a pistol, five rifle magazines, a GPS device and a gun-cleaning kit.

The day after the incident, Salazar said she received phone calls from two police officials, who called to apologize for the delay.

“I told them I appreciated the call,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday. “It was an unfortunate situation, and I said that, but at the same time it was just relieving to hear from them.”

At the scene, officers traced the abandoned ammunition to a nearby home, where the stash’s owner said it had been burglarized from his car. None of the man’s guns, which were locked in his garage, had been taken, according to the incident report.

Valdez said that case remains open. Investigators have yet to identify any suspects.