The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

City leaders need to be accountable, explain gun in jail


February 21, 2018

It’s been three weeks since a suicidal criminal suspect managed to bring a gun into the Curry County jail.

We’re still waiting for an explanation about how this happened. All we’ve seen so far is a stunning lack of accountability and leadership from the city of Clovis.

The county’s jail officials have been clear: It wasn’t their fault. Their words and documents say Sanford Wagner, a Clovis police officer, brought Wesley Flores into the jail without a proper search. Four hours later, Flores shot himself in the face. He remains hospitalized.

Clovis’ police and city leaders say ... nothing.

They’ve not issued a statement, they’ve not released video, they’ve not even responded to the county’s allegations that they messed up.

Are they not understanding the significance of what happened on Feb. 1?

Maybe they don’t think they owe anyone an explanation?

Clearly they’ve forgotten who pays their salaries.

To be clear, this is not an indictment against Clovis police officers. Overall, the actions and attitudes of the men and women on the streets have proved exemplary, especially in recent months, from their response to the library shooting in August to the city park drowning in July.

This is about leadership’s transparency and it’s directed at Police Chief Doug Ford and City Manager Justin Howalt:

You owe area residents an explanation.

How did Flores get a gun into the jail?

Was there confusion about who was supposed to search him?

Was the officer responsible not properly trained to conduct a search for firearms?

Has anyone been fired, suspended, disciplined in any way in connection with this mistake that could have resulted in multiple deaths?

And, most important, what are you doing to make sure this never happens again?

After all, you weren’t dealing with a docile shoplifter no one suspected might become violent.

Someone called police for help, reporting that a man with access to weapons was threatening suicide that afternoon on Jonquil Park Drive. That man, it was soon learned, was wanted for failing to appear in court on a gun charge.

And after all that, he still managed to sneak a gun into the jail, pulling it from his clothing just before he was to be booked into the jail.

Things could easily have turned out worse than they did, and likely would have, if not for a jail staff and the Curry County Sheriff’s Department, who responded like professionals.

Taxpayers deserve an explanation from the city.

Ford and Howalt need to step up, be leaders, take responsibility for what’s happened and convince us they are capable of doing a better job in the future.

And if they won’t, city commissioners and Mayor David Lansford need to do their jobs and compel them.

This is not the time for political posturing or hiding from responsibility. A man brought a gun into our jail. The community deserves answers.

Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the Clovis Media Inc. editorial board, which includes Editor David Stevens and Publisher Rob Langrell.


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