Officials with the Taos Police Department say they are still working to get to the bottom of the alleged beating of a Taos landowner over the removal of political signs from in front of his property.
In an interview with The Taos News Friday (May 25), property owner Roy Cunnyngham and his wife Joni recounted the events when they returned home, across from Casa los Córdovas May 1.
“I don’t know how many people hit me,” Cunnyngham said of the incident.
According to the police report filed the same day, Eighth Judicial District Court judge candidate Ernestina Cruz was having a “meet and greet” event at Plaza de Colores. At the same time, across the street, Cunnyngham and his wife were returning home from dinner to find several of Cruz’ campaign signs in front of his property.
As in the police report, Cunnyngham confirmed that three men approached him and demanded that he replace the signs where they’d been staked. Cunnyngham said he resisted.
“We were setting them in the car and we’d planned to call whoever they belonged to,” Cunnyngham said. “I told them I thought it was very distasteful to put these signs in front of my property.”
At that point, a younger man came across the street and again told Cunnyngham to put the signs back. When Cunnyngham refused, the man “pounded me in the chest,” Cunnyngham said.
While Cunnyngham says he knows a few of the people involved, The Taos News’ policy is not to identify alleged offenders until they have been charged or implicated by law enforcement.
At the time of the incident, Cruz denied having any knowledge of anyone involved in the incident, saying that it was “unfortunate” that Cunnyngham removed signs that “did not belong to him.”
What followed was far from a fair fight, the Cunnynghams say. Cunnyngham was later checked out by a doctor who treated him for cuts and bruises, injuries to his mouth and a concussion, Cunnyngham said.
“They just attacked him, all three of them,” Joni Cunnyngham said. “Someone was keeping me and my son from getting to them.”
The Taos News again contacted investigating officer Sgt. John Wentz on the status of the investigation and who had been questioned in the incident.
In a voicemail message, Wentz said that the incident was still the subject of an “active criminal investigation” that prevented him from commenting further, though Wentz said he was “having trouble” getting people to talk about the incident.
That seems to be the crux of the issue for the Cunnynghams and attorney Alan Maestas, because the Cunnynghams claim there were plenty of witnesses to the event.
In his report, Wentz also said that Taos Police Lt. David Maggio was present at the “meet and greet” and told Wentz at the time that he wanted “no part” of the incident. He has since denied seeing any part of the alleged battery.
What now worries the Cunnynghams is that this sort of behavior will go unpunished.
“This lady [Cruz] wants to be a judge, but her supporters appear not to have an interest in justice,” Cunnyngham said. “All these people want to be better for the community. This is better for the community?”
Joni Cunnyngham is concerned that incidents like this may also be telling of the community.
“The fact that they’re not coming forward is an admission of guilt,” Joni Cunnyngham said. “It seems like if people can get away with this where’s it going to stop?”