Saturday, June 26, 2004

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH

Somehow my story about last week's threat to Gov. Richardson didn't make it to The New Mexican's web site. I'll post it here.

As published in the Santa Fe New Mexican

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

But when there’s a security threat going against the state Homeland Security Office, Homeland Security goes home.

At least that’s what happened this week when a woman called the Homeland Security Office threatening to shoot Gov. Bill Richardson, politicians in general and unnamed “Mexicans.”

According to Peter Olson, spokesman for the state Public Safety Department, a woman walked into the state Transportation Department and asked to use the phone Thursday afternoon shortly before 4 p.m.

She then called Homeland Security. Referring to “politicians,” the woman threatened to “line them up, Bill (Richardson) first, and get rid of them one by one.”

According to Olson’s press release, “The woman said approximately ten times in the conversation that she would ‘get a gun to shoot Mexicans.’ She stated that the next time a Mexican violated her rights; she would ‘shoot them.’

“The woman kept referring to immigration policies and used racial slurs against Mexicans throughout the course of the conversation,” Olson said.

Richardson was in Boston Thursday, attending meetings for the upcoming Democratic National Convention, of which he is chairman.

The woman’s image was captured on a security camera. However, she left the office before police arrived.

Homeland Security employees were sent home Thursday afternoon, Olson said. The office reopened Friday morning.

Annette Sobel, director of the Homeland Security Office, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

A spokeswoman for the governor’s office declined to comment referring questions to Public Safety Secretary John Denko.

Denko was quoted in the press release saying, “This represents another example of the increasing number of threats made against Governor Richardson since he assumed office in January of 2003. All security precautions will be taken to insure his safety.”

In the past year Denko and other administration officials have given security as a reason for Richardson’s state police drivers driving at 100 mph speeds and for not disclosing some details of Richardson’s travels.

But Olson said Friday couldn’t quantify how much the threats had been increasing because he didn’t know how many threats have been made against Richardson.

“We haven’t been keeping track,” he said.

State police have investigated threats against the governor that have included phone calls as well as “people yelling things from crowds,” Olson said.

Few of the threats have been publicized. In January, state police evacuated most of the Capitol — although reporters in the press room were not told to leave — for a police bomb squad to investigate a “suspicious package” in Richardson’s parking space in the underground parking garage. The governor wasn’t in the building.

Police haven’t disclosed details about the package. No arrests were ever made.

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