RIO RANCHO, New Mexico (KOAT) — A law has been in place for police departments and law enforcement to remove firearms from anyone they think is an immediate threat to someone.
However, Target 7 has learned one of New Mexico’s largest counties, Sandoval County, has never used it.
Some argue that 82-year-old Rio Rancho woman Juneanne Fannell would still be alive if it was used.
The Rio Rancho Police Department and Fire Department arrived at the home in April to find Fannell in a hospital bed. First responders were there after caretaker Henry Cardana called for emergency services.
Cardana told 911 that Fannell was uncontrollable and that they needed to get her out of the home for her own safety. Cardana had been the caretaker for Fannell for several years.
Fannell also spoke during the 911 call and said that she felt like she was in danger. She also said there were weapons in the home after the dispatcher asked.
Rio Rancho officers talk with Cardana about the firearms inside the home.
“You’re a firearms guy?” an officer asked.
“Oh, yeah,” Cardana said.
“Nice,” the officer said.
“They’re loaded. They’re ready to go,” Cardana said.
“We don’t need to see them,” the officer said. “There’s one probably right there in that case. And I see another one over there.”
The officer continued saying, “I like folks that have guns,” since he is a gun owner himself. As the officers begin to say their goodbyes to Cardana and Fannell, she begs them to stay at the home.
Then, the conversation continues between Cardana and Fannell once the officers say they have to go.
“What did you say?” Fannell asked.
“I said you’re fine until I kill you,” Cardana said.
“All right? He’s threatened to do that,” Fannell said to the Rio Rancho police officers.
“Get out of here now,” Cardana said to the officers. “Go away.”
The two officers leave, and four hours later, 911 receives another call. This time from a neighbor.
“The neighbor man was screaming for help and told us to call the police,” the neighbor said. “He says he’s killed her.”
Police returned to find Cardana covered in blood. He had just shot and killed Fannell, according to court documents. KOAT legal expert John Day says more could have been done.
“In this particular case, it sounds like there was plenty of information that the law enforcement had that would have triggered the implementation of a red flag law,” Day said.
The law is the extreme risk firearm protection order. It was enacted in July 2020 after two years of debate in the state capitol.
However, the majority of elected sheriffs in New Mexico oppose it and have said they will not enforce the law. However, the passed law allows law enforcement and prosecutors to petition a court.
Those petitions will have a gun owners guns seized if there is a credible threat they will do harm to others or themselves. Day explains how it works.
“There’s a process for the for law enforcement to go to a court and get a temporary order saying go get those guns, put them away somewhere safe,” Day said. “We’ll deal with this and let some time pass, let people cool off.”
Chief Steward Steele provided this statement when asked about the police response to the home:
“On April 5, 2023, City of Rio Rancho first responders responded to two calls for service at 2102 Western Hills Dr NE, Rio Rancho NM 87124. During the first call for service, Rio Rancho Police Officers responded to assist the Rio Rancho Fire Department and conduct a welfare check. During the welfare check, Officers spent time counseling the individuals who resided at the residence regarding hospice care and advanced long term care services. Ultimately, Officers were able to help arrange alternative housing at a long term care facility for Juneanne Fannell before leaving the scene.
“When Officers left the scene, it did not appear Juneanne was in fear for her safety and there was no probable cause to believe any criminal activity had occurred. Officers did not witness any signs of distress and comments made relating to the use of a firearm appeared to be insincere and made in jest. Officers had no reasonable belief to suspect that either individual was sincerely contemplating an imminent act of violence because the behavior of the individuals observed on scene indicated they cared for one another and were working to solve their long term health care and living situation needs.
“Based on the entirety of circumstances during the first call, there was no probable cause to conduct a criminal investigation or substantiate a significant danger of imminent personal injury as a result of either person having access to a firearm. Consequently, the Officers lacked authority to arrest, place into protective custody either party against their will, or file a petition pursuant to the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act.
“During the second call for service, the Rio Rancho Police Department conducted a thorough and complete homicide investigation and continues to cooperate with the District Attorney’s Office prosecution of Henry Cardana.”
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