Mother of Taos bank burglar says son had suffered grand mal seizure, mental episodes

By John Miller
jmiller@taosnews.com
Posted 4/21/18

The question of why a Las Vegas man allegedly broke into a Taos community bank on Thursday (April 19) with no apparent motive could be explained by a seizure that nearly killed him last year, …

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Mother of Taos bank burglar says son had suffered grand mal seizure, mental episodes

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The question of why a Las Vegas man allegedly broke into a Taos community bank on Thursday (April 19) with no apparent motive could be explained by a seizure that nearly killed him last year, according to new information from the man's family.

Angela Sanchez, mother of Alejandro Alirez, the 20-year-old accused of breaking into the Centinel Bank of Taos main branch on Thursday, said she and her family were living in Albuquerque on Jan. 27, 2017, when she awoke to find Alirez unresponsive on her living room floor.

Medics arrived within 30 minutes, she said, and told her that her son had suffered a grand mal seizure, a rare and sometimes fatal epileptic event that can damage the brain. Alirez said epilepsy runs in her family, but that her son had never before shown signs of sharing the condition.

Unable to revive Alirez, the medics rushed him to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, where a doctor placed the then 19 year-old on life support, his mother said.

Alirez woke up a week later and started communicating again, but his words came in fits and starts. He wasn't making sense. Sanchez could tell something was wrong.

"When he woke up, he ripped all his IVs out," she said. "He was threatening to leave."

He escaped the hospital that same day and made his way to Presbyterian Rust Medical Center in Rio Rancho. Sanchez still doesn't know how or why he went there. He escaped for a second time the next day, again leaving his family in the dark.

Sanchez said Alirez eventually sent her a photo from the inside of the hospital's chapel. She told him to stay put, and sent her brother, who was nearby, to go pick him up and take him to their family's home in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

There, Alirez lived with his sisters and brother for a few days before he fled from care a third time.

While accompanying his pregnant sister to a doctor's appointment, Alirez jumped into the driver's seat in the parking lot and drove off, nearly running over his sister, Sanchez said.

An alert went out for the vehicle, which belongs to the sister's boyfriend, and charges were filed.

Sanchez and her family had Las Vegas law enforcement put out a missing persons alert to search for Alirez.

They didn't see any sign of him until February, 2017, when his name appeared for the first time in his life on a jail log at the Pueblo County Adult Detention Center, nearly 3 hours north in Colorado.

Speaking with town officials, Sanchez learned that her son, who had no prior criminal record in New Mexico, according to online court records, had crashed the car he had fled in.

According to a Pueblo Police report, Alirez then broke into Colorado Bank & Trust on the east side of town, only to call police the next morning from inside the bank to tell them what he had done, but offering no explanation as to why he had done it and having stolen nothing.

Alirez spent more than six months incarcerated at the Pueblo county jail, according to records at Pueblo Combined Court. Meanwhile, Sanchez and her family struggled to get him released and to a neurologist who might be able to explain his behavior.

Sanchez said the court ordered a mental health evaluation and found Alirez to be "incompetent." Records personnel at the court, however, declined to confirm or deny the assessment this week due to patient privacy laws.

The family grew increasingly concerned that Alirez would be drawn deeper into the criminal justice system, and Sanchez pushed for additional court-ordered assessments, which she said were denied.

Alirez signed a plea agreement for one charge of criminal mischief in July. Before he was released last month, his mother said a public defender persuaded a judge to drop the case altogether based on her client's mental instability, which was evident both in and out of the courtroom.

With the court's assistance, Alirez boarded a bus in March to New Mexico, where he was to address the outstanding charge for taking the vehicle outside the hospital.

While he waited for the hearing, he returned to his siblings in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where his behavior continued to take erratic turns his family still couldn't make sense of.

"He wouldn't eat or drink anything," Sanchez said, "we would have to force him. He would just stare into space and go on long walks by himself."

Less than two weeks later, Alirez went for a walk and didn't return, Sanchez said.

Her nephew spotted him this week when he made headlines for allegedly breaking into Centinel Bank in Taos, fending off police with a fire extinguisher, then kitchen knives, before being tackled and arrested. The only items he had taken were a few muffins he could be seen eating on surveillance footage while he wandered the bank's halls.

Over the past few days, his family has been fighting to paint a different picture than the one Alirez's actions seemed to have shaped so far.

Sanchez told The Taos News that her son graduated from Youth Challenge Academy, a school for high school dropouts located in Roswell, New Mexico, when he was 16. Later, he graduated from Eastern New Mexico University, she said. She described her son as many mothers would: as a "good boy."

But she's found herself up against criticism from the Taos community in response to the break-in, with some poking fun at Alirez's seemingly nonsensical crime, and others expressing anger at the allegation that the 20-year-old attempted to stab an arresting officer with a knife after he had been stunned with a taser.

One of the family's greatest challenges in changing the narrative may be lifting the legal shroud obscuring the medical conditions Sanchez says her son suffers from.

Even she could not access Alirez's medical records due to the fact he is no longer a minor.

At this stage, all they can do is hope the public will consider the possibility that there's more to Alirez than what they've seen so far.

The most crucial response, however, will come from the Taos County court system and adult detention center, now tasked with managing yet another offender who may be suffering from an untreated mental health disorder.

Before her son disappeared last week, Sanchez said she had scheduled him for an appointment at Neurology of Santa Fe for Wednesday (April 25).

She hopes the courts see to it that he makes it.

As of Saturday night (April 21), however, Alirez remained incarcerated at the Taos County Adult Detention Center, charged with crimes that neither his family nor police can yet explain.

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