Published: 10:58 am, Tue. Feb. 7th, 2017Updated: 2:56 pm
A total of 17 individuals were arrested and eight illegal drug cases initiated as a result of an Eddy County Sheriff’s Office Detective Division, Carlsbad Police Department Detective Division, and Pecos Valley Drug Task Force investigation that unveiled a plot to harm county law enforcement officers and their families.
During the Jan. 31 investigation, in which two search warrants were served in Carlsbad and one in southern Eddy County, information was discovered regarding a plot to do violence against specific Artesia and Carlsbad Police Department officers and ECSO deputies, and their families.
Once that information was uncovered, an intensive multi-agency investigation was initiated to determine whether the threats were valid. Sufficient evidence was found that action had been taken by the individuals involved to advance the plan, and the investigation was subsequently expanded with the cooperation of all involved agencies.
On Feb. 1, officers and agents went to 30 residential locations in Carlsbad and southern Eddy County to identify and interview 68 individuals. As a result, five illegal drug cases were initiated and 11 fugitives were arrested without incident.
The operation continued Feb. 2 in Artesia, with 15 residential locations visited and 35 individuals interviewed. Three illegal drug cases were initiated as a result of that investigation and six fugitives arrested. In the course of two of those arrests, search warrants were obtained to remove the fugitives from the residences at which they were located, both of which were served by the ECSO Tactical Response Team. Both suspects were taken into custody without injury.
“As professional law enforcement officers, unfortunately we all know that violence can visit us at any time,” said Eddy County Sheriff Mark Cage in a statement. “We train and prepare for that. However, we take plots such as the one we have been dealing with for the past week very seriously. Our response was and continues to be swift, sure, decisive and necessary.
“It is my belief that this type of plot is extremely unacceptable and simply will not be tolerated. We will respond, as we have in this situation, to all credible threats of violence, not only to the citizens of Eddy County but also to our law enforcement professionals and their families. This pertains to all law enforcement in Eddy County. Our response shall have the goal to neutralize the violent threat without using violence and allow our criminal justice system to deal with the suspects as prescribed by law.”
Officials said the plot against law enforcement included details about various officers’ homes and vehicles, and that information indicated the individuals involved planned to utilize firearms and potentially even explosive devices.
All drug cases gleaned as a result of the agencies’ efforts were incidental in the course of the investigation into the threats, and all charges currently levied against the arrested individuals were drug-related. Additional information on those arrests and charges will be published as it becomes available.
The agencies also identified two persons of interest they were unable to locate: Michael W. Grantham, 35, of Artesia, and Robert T. Matta, 43, of Carlsbad.
Anyone with information regarding their whereabouts is urged to contact the PVDTF at 575-887-5194 or through their Facebook page, facebook.com/pvdtf, or, anonymously, Crime Stoppers of Eddy County at 575-887-1888 or facebook.com/Crime-Stoppers-of-Eddy-County.
“No matter the threat to law enforcement, APD will continue to accomplish their published mission statement: protect and serve our citizens,” said Cmdr. Lindell Smith of the APD. “We do this while building relationships with them and while holding people, including ourselves, accountable for actions.
“The career of law enforcement can sometimes be dangerous. We each have taken that under advisement and will certainly be concerned about our own safety. However, we look forward to continuing to make Artesia a better, safer place to live in, work in, go to school in, play in, or travel through.”
The investigation is ongoing, and the agencies anticipate additional arrests as it continues.
“I want to make this very clear: We will not be intimidated nor threatened into turning away from our sworn duties,” said Cage. “We will continue to protect and serve the citizens of Eddy County with honor, integrity and courage.”
“The plot identified in Eddy County that specifically targeted Eddy County law enforcement officers is of grave concern and the highest priority for investigation and prosecution,” Fifth Judicial District Attorney Dianna Luce said in a statement. “The goal is to remove the violent offenders from our communities in New Mexico for as long as possible.
“Our office stands with law enforcement and views threats to law enforcement as a high security risk, not only for officers but for the entire community. We will prosecute these cases to the fullest extent of the law.”