Prosecutors: 'Hard to imagine a person more dangerous'

Prosecutors are seeking to keep in custody a homeless man suspected of stabbing 11 people in a matter of hours as he rode a bicycle around Albuquerque on Sunday

Via AP news wire
Tuesday 15 February 2022 22:33
Albuquerque Stabbings
Albuquerque Stabbings

Prosecutors are seeking to keep in custody a homeless man suspected of stabbing 11 people in a matter of hours as he rode a bicycle around Albuquerque on Sunday, saying no conditions of release could reasonably ensure the safety of the community.

Tobias Gutierrez, who has a lengthy criminal history, appeared in court virtually Tuesday on charges of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

A public safety assessment tool used by judges in New Mexico's largest city to determine whether a defendant can be released pending trial under certain conditions recommends that Gutierrez be released based on factors that include his age, previous history and the current charges.

Prosecutors argued otherwise in a pretrial detention motion.

“It is hard to imagine a person more dangerous that hurt more people than the defendant,” the motion states. “With so many victims and with no clear motive or reason, it is clear that the defendant is an extremely violent and dangerous person. The only way to protect our community is to hold the defendant in custody until this matter is resolved at trial.”

A state district judge will consider the motion at an upcoming hearing.

While Gutierrez was represented Tuesday by a public defender, an attorney who could speak on his behalf has yet to be appointed.

The case comes as legislative efforts to overhaul the state’s troubled pretrial release program have all but stalled despite strong momentum for change in January when the session began. That was fueled partly by Albuquerque marking a year of record homicides and growing frustration among families who had lost loved ones to violent crime.

Lauren Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Raúl Torrez, said the Gutierrez case marks the second time in a week that the court's public safety assessment framework has recommended release for what prosecutors consider a dangerous person.

“Apparently even facing charges of stabbing 11 different people in broad daylight isn’t enough to keep someone behind bars using this instrument,” she said. “Unfortunately, while 77% of the public wants the revolving door shut on these types of violent offenders, the Legislature has once again failed to address the issue or even acknowledge the problem."

Despite the recommendations of the assessment, she said she was hopeful judges would use their discretion when considering detention motions.

Sunday's stabbings appeared to have been committed at random within hours along Central Avenue, one of the city’s main thoroughfares. One of the crime scenes included a homeless encampment and another was near a smoke shop where the suspect asked a victim for money and yelled obscenities before swinging a knife, according to a criminal complaint.

The witnesses identified a man on a bike armed with a large knife. Some described the man as acting strangely and said he appeared to be upset.

New Mexico court records show Gutierrez's criminal history included felony offenses that ranged from burglary to battery, possession of a controlled substance and driving while intoxicated. In 2014, he was sentenced to federal prison after trying to take a revolver and ammunition into a tribal casino and prompting a police pursuit.

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