Allsup’s suspect schizophrenic, but will remain in Taos jail

By John Miller
jmiller@taosnews.com
Posted 11/14/19

A Taos District Court judge denied bail on Thursday (Nov. 14) for a schizophrenic man accused of pulling a knife on an armored truck driver outside a local Allsup’s in Taos.

Part of the reason for his ruling, the judge said, was a lack of behavioral health services available to treat mentally ill defendants in the state.

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Allsup’s suspect schizophrenic, but will remain in Taos jail

Posted

Updated Nov. 15 at 9 a.m.

A Taos District Court judge denied bail on Thursday (Nov. 14) for a schizophrenic man accused of pulling a knife on an armored truck driver outside a local Allsup’s in Taos.

Part of the reason for his ruling, the judge said, was a lack of behavioral health services available to treat mentally ill defendants in the state.

A press release from Taos Police Department said last week that Jerry Lee Gutierrez, 27, held a knife in his hand as he questioned a customer filling up at a pump at the station near Taos Pueblo last Tuesday (Nov. 6). Minutes later, he asked an armored truck driver for a ride.

When the guard refused, the press release said Gutierrez pulled out the knife and told him, “Let me make this easy for you.” The guard drew his sidearm, pointing it at the 27-year-old, asking him to back away. Gutierrez grabbed the firearm, the guard fired a shot – missing him – and Gutierrez fled to the parking lot of Michael’s Kitchen, where he was arrested by Taos Police.

Speaking on Gutierrez's behalf at Thursday’s detention hearing, public defense attorney James Mamalis said the narrative provided by police distorted the real scenario that played out: that of a desperate, mentally ill man who wanted the guard to end his life after a difficult stint in the county jail, where Mamalis said medical staff administered medication to his client improperly.

Gutierrez was released from custody on Nov. 6, not long before the encounter with the guard at the station.

“Gutierrez asked if he could just shoot him,” Mamalis said. "It was really a desperate cry for help or maybe even an attempted, what we might call an attempted suicide by cop – or suicide by armored car driver."

He said that detail was omitted from the police report provided by Taos Police Department, but said the exchange was clear based on transcriptions of interviews conducted at the station, which were unavailable in court records as of Thursday evening.

Taos Police Chief David Trujillo said the press release he wrote about the incident was based on an officer's narrative. He said the report contained no evidence that Gutierrez had asked the driver to shoot him.

"Without that in the report, it’s just hearsay," he said.

Tim Hasson, deputy district attorney with the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, said that Gutierrez’s mother had filed a petition for a protective order against him in October, citing “domestic abuse."

Gutierrez was arrested at his mother’s residence on Oct. 27 for allegedly violating that order, but Mamalis said there was no evidence Gutierrez had ever been served by the courts.

“It’s basically an illegal arrest and detention because the order wasn’t ever served,” Mamalis said.

Mamalis surmised that the order was filed because Gutierrez had resisted taking his medication and had failed to attend doctor's appointments. Instead, Gutierrez would not sleep and would use methamphematine and alcohol to self-medicate. He might have been difficult for his mother to handle, but wasn't abusive, Mamalis argued.

While at the jail, Mamalis said medical staff gave Gutierrez injections of a medicine to treat schizophrenia into his bicep, instead of his buttock, as required by his prescription, causing him unecessary pain and swelling.

Randy Autio, a county attorney, said an investigation into the allegation determined that “all appropriate care was rendered using proper medical procedures.”

“We of course take all such allegations seriously and once the allegations came to staff’s attention they were investigated with the cooperation of our medical care provider,” Autio wrote in an email.

Mamalis said Gutierrez has been charged in several cases in New Mexico, but noted that he has been convicted in only one: a 2018 battery case for which he completed probation.

But Hasson said Gutierrez's one conviction, history of prior violent charges, lack of housing and inability to follow doctor's orders indicated he could be a danger to the Taos community. He noted that Gutierrez's mother said her son sometimes heard voices, which at one point instructed him to burn down a relative's home and slash another person's tires.

While Gutierrez’s cognitive ability to understand his charges or eventually stand trial has been raised as a concern by the courts and a competency hearing may be forthcoming, Judge Emilio Chavez concluded that the county jail was the only remaining option, partly due to “a lack of treatment facilities for people who suffer from mental illness in the state.”

"His case is a painful illustration of just how much our society has made the mentally ill into one more 'throw-away' population," Mamalis wrote in an email to the Taos News following the hearing. "Rather than provide any real possibility for humane in-patient care, our society has by default chosen to let them to suffer, until their suffering is so bad that they encounter law enforcement in a state of severe crisis, and wind up in jail, where meaningful medication management seldom occurs."

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