Still on the loose, but now on video. New Mexico State Police say two violent escaped convicts were spotted on surveillance video in Albuquerque hours after they managed to flee from a prison transport van. Sgt. Elizabeth Armijo says surveillance video shot at around 4:30 a.m. Thursday shows 32-year-old Joseph Cruz and 29-year-old Lionel Clah at an Albuquerque hotel. Both men were last accounted for by corrections officers around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at least 200 miles away between Roswell and Las Cruces. They were shackled and wearing white jumpsuits. Court records show Cruz was serving a life sentence for a first-degree murder conviction while Clah pleaded guilty in 2009 to armed robbery. In the video, Clah is wearing a maroon or red shirt, blue jeans and a hooded sweatshirt. Cruz is wearing a tan or brown shirt or jacket, jeans and glasses. Anyone with information on the pair’s whereabouts should call 9-1-1.
Amid the focus on those escaped prisoners, Governor Susana Martinez has appointed Scott Weaver to lead the Public Safety Department. The governor announced Weaver’s promotion from acting secretary after Greg Fourrat quit to take another job several weeks ago. Weaver will oversee the State Police, Motor Transportation Police and the Law Enforcement Academy. He previously managed state forensics laboratories in Santa Fe, Las Cruces, and Hobbs, and was a State Police officer from 1994 to 2015. Weaver helped brief reporters Thursday on the search for the two fugitive prison inmates and the State Police investigation into their escape.
The head of the US Veterans Affairs Department says he has visited two dozen medical schools to recruit more employees and his agency has hired more than 1,400 doctors over the last two years. VA Secretary Robert McDonald was questioned Thursday by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall during a budget hearing in Washington, D.C. The New Mexico Democrat wanted to know what the agency was doing to regain the trust of veterans in the wake of a scandal sparked by allegations of secret waiting lists and scheduling concerns at VA facilities across the country.
New figures released by the VA show wait times at clinics in New Mexico have improved since the beginning of the year. As of March 1, fewer than 6 percent of appointments were delayed 31 days or longer. Another arrest has been made in the fatal drive-by shooting of an Albuquerque teenager last summer. Albuquerque police say 19-year-old Dominic Conyers turned himself in and was booked into jail Thursday on a warrant. He's being held on suspicion of an open count of murder, shooting at or from a motor vehicle and conspiracy to commit a first- or second-degree felony. Police say shots were fired from a vehicle at a home last summer, and 17-year-old Jaydon Chavez-Silver was killed. The arrest comes as two other teens and an adult await trial in the shooting.
Correction from yesterday’s story on the city’s budget woes and the mayor’s change of plans to close a projected $15 to $18-million dollar gap:
Gonzales also said he is withdrawing his proposal to invest $50 million in cash reserves from the Water Division with the State Investment Council and use the proceeds to combat poverty and climate change. But Gonzales spokesman said he is not giving up on his proposed Santa Fe Verde Fund, rather, he will look for other means to fund the concept. Our report yesterday said he was eliminating the plan.
Westmoreland Coal Company has laid off workers at its San Juan Mine. The Farmington Daily Times newspaper reports that Westmoreland Executive Vice President of Operations Joe Micheletti on Wednesday confirmed that there was a workforce reduction at the Farmington mine.
Gov. Susana Martinez says she’ll work with lawmakers to fix the New Mexico Lottery’s financial troubles. This week the governor vetoed legislation that would have allowed for unclaimed prize money to be transferred to New Mexico's lottery tuition fund. Lawmakers in bipartisan House and Senate votes had approved the unclaimed prizes measure. They said it had the potential to boost the fund by up to almost $3-million, putting a dent in the lottery’s funding gap.
In her veto message, the governor said she supported the spirit of the legislation but that signing it would result in less money for lottery officials to invest in new games and offer higher payouts. More players could increase revenue for the scholarships, she said. New Mexico is one of several states where lottery revenues haven't kept up with tuition increases and demand for financial aid.
The U.S. Department of Energy is investing nearly $7 million in 33 small businesses across the country. The DOE says the investment comes in the hopes of building partnerships with national laboratories, including those in New Mexico, that can speed up the development of clean energy technology. Officials with the department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy announced the businesses selected for the first round of the pilot project Thursday. Another $13 million in vouchers will be awarded in subsequent rounds, and officials have asked for a budget increase for the next fiscal year. Aside from doubling the number of small businesses that are working with the national labs, Assistant DOE Secretary Dave Danielson says the goal is to bring game-changing technology to the market faster. The companies selected represent 20 different states. They'll be working with nine national labs.
In National News:
Officials in northern Louisiana are warning that some levees could overflow today because of continuous rain. Record-setting flooding already has prompted numerous high-water rescues and has killed three people in the state. If the weather lets up today, Gov. John Bel Edwards plans to tour Shreveport and Bossier City and Monroe. Some areas near Bossier City are under a mandatory evacuation.
Former first lady Nancy Reagan will be buried today beside her husband on a scenic hilltop that contains the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Family and hundreds of friends from Hollywood, Washington and beyond will join in a private service. Forecasters predict rain and a tent has been erected over the service site. Nancy Reagan was 94 when she died Sunday.