Gary Smith says he’s done nothing wrong but the police detective working one of the most bizarre political stories in New Mexico says he “has no doubt” that the former Republican candidate for US Congress is the man caught on surveillance video puncturing the tires of his former opponent, Janice Arnold-Jones – and there could be more charges coming against Smith for similar incidents against fellow Republicans.
The 65-year-old Smith was arrested last Friday (Dec. 28) and after spending one day in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque, Smith bonded out. He’s been charged with criminal damage to property over $1,000 — a fourth degree felony — but that’s just the beginning.
Albuquerque Police Department Detective Lorenzo Garcia told Capitol Report New Mexico on Monday (Jan. 31) that Smith could face more charges as authorities investigate other incidents that may be tied to Smith, a former military intelligence officer.
“This is really four cases in one,” Detective Garcia said, referring to accusations from at least three other people whose vehicles have had their tires slashed in recent months, including Rhead Story, who actually was Smith’s former campaign manager. Story has told the Santa Fe Reporter that since June, he’s had at least 40 tires slashed and has handed his own, grainy surveillance video to police.
“I do expect there could be additional charges once we investigate these other incidents,” Garcia said. “We just don’t know yet.”
Smith could also face charges of stalking, criminal trespass and harassment by the time the other tire slashing incidents are reviewed. Garcia said he hopes to finish those investigations by the end of this week.
When arrested, Smith did not give a statement to police but he told two Albuquerque television stations that he’s innocent.
“I don’t know anything that’s going on here,” Smith told KRQE-TV, adding, “I don’t even know where Jones lives, to tell you the truth.”
But Detective Garcia on Monday morning said, “From the video I observed it appears to be (Smith) … it matches his appearance. I have no doubt … If I was a betting man, I would feel pretty safe saying it’s him. I wouldn’t have written the arrest warrant if I had any doubts.”
Arnold-Jones doesn’t have any doubts either.
We talked to her on Saturday:
Smith planned to run against Arnold-Jones in the GOP primary for the US House of Representatives seat in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District. A longshot who had never run for political office before, Smith had his signature petitions qualifying him for the June primary ballot challenged by Arnold-Jones and a district court judge agreed, saying not enough of the signatures were valid, thus kicking Smith off the ballot.
Smith was angry after the decision, saying, “When you go to your own kind, your own brother, your own sister, and they stab you in the back repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly.”
Outside of about four or five campaign forums, Arnold-Jones said she had no contact with Smith and at those events, there were no confrontations between the two.
But starting on Nov. 30, the tires on her vehicle as well as those on her husband’s truck were slashed while they say in their driveway of their home in Northeast Albuquerque. After other incidents on Dec. 7, 13, 14 (as well as $4,000 in replacement costs), the family erected a security camera on the night of Dec. 20, they discovered a man looking like Smith puncturing all the tires on their two vehicles:
“My take is, this is a true cry for help,” said Arnold-Jones, who after winning the GOP primary lost to Democrat Michelle Luján Grisham in November. “I think this is the act of a very unstable person, clearly angry but from our view it was escalating, which made it very dangerous.”
Campaign records from the Federal Election Commission show that Smith raised $293,385 during his campaign but nearly all of it came from loans and the FEC posted $168,000 in debts, fueling speculation that perhaps in the months since getting booted off the ballot Smith has run into severe financial problems.
The story has caused a stir across the New Mexico political landscape and has even been picked up by a couple national media outlets.
Update 1/1: Janice Arnold-Jones told Capitol Report New Mexico on the morning of Jan. 1 that her husband, John Jones, saw Smith driving by their home at 7:22 a.m., in what Arnold-Jones says is a violation of the terms of Smith’s bond to stay away from the Jones household. “He did come and it is on tape,” Arnold-Jones said, asserting that John Jones positively identified Smith driving a red Saturn. “He pulls up by the mail box,” Arnold-Jones said, “and slowly backs up and pulls out to the middle of the street.”
In addition, Arnold-Jones says that former Smith campaign manager Rhead Story told her that Story discovered that four more of his tires were slashed this morning, which would bring the total of ruined tires for Story to 44.
Capitol Report New Mexico left a message with Story but has not received a callback.
On a Facebook posting Tuesday, John Jones wrote: “Gary – we know who you are, we know what you’ve done – don’t make it worse … do NOT escalate this thing … get some help, serve your time. Turn yourself in for a bail violation. Now.”
The Jones family spoke to Albuquerque Police about this latest incident. “Holy moley, it’s just unbelievable,” Arnold-Jones said.
Update 1/1, 7:02 p.m.: Peter St. Cyr of the Santa Fe Reporter spoke to Smith on video at Smith’s home in Albuquerque and Smith admitted he had driven past the Jones household. “I just went by there ’cause I wanted to see,” Smith said. “I didn’t even know the address until I got the paperwork …”