SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico state senator said he fled his house after receiving anonymous threatening telephone messages following his criticism of a protest outside the state Capitol against coronavirus restrictions.
State Sen. Jacob Candelaria said Sunday that he received the series of profanity-laced telephone telephone messages after he issued the criticism Saturday night in a TV appearance.
A male caller accused the Democratic senator from Albuquerque of not knowing what it means to be an American and said that “we’re going to get you out one way or another," Candelaria said.
Another message included homophobic slurs against the openly gay legislator and attorney, the lawmaker said
Candelaria had said that the protest of several hundred demonstrators near the Statehouse was risky and irresponsible.
The protesters urged Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to reopen the state's economy and denounce pandemic restrictions. Many waved presidential campaign flags supporting President Donald Trump.
New Mexico health officials have banned gatherings of more than five people and mandated masks in public, with a variety of restrictions on businesses, amid a series of record-setting statewide daily tallies for confirmed COVID-19 infections in recent days.
Candelaria said he left his home in Albuquerque with his husband and that they are staying outside of the city in New Mexico. The lawmaker claimed the response to the messages he received from local and state law enforcement authorities was inadequate in light of credible recent threats made against politicians such as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
He also expressed concern that he could become the target of intimidation or violence as a gay, Latino person.
Candelaria said he grew more alarmed after tracing one phone number to a man with an outstanding warrant for arrest, with help from a private investigator.
“I have no idea how I can keep my family safe right now other than leave," Candelaria said. “They do not have the right to make death threats like this and have it go unaccountable.”
Candelaria said state police officers arrived at his home about 12 hours after he contacted them. Candelaria said he grew frustrated when officers suggested the voice messages were not necessarily a threat.
State Police Lieutenant and spokesman Mark Soriano said Sunday that the agency's investigations bureau is actively handling Candelaria's complaint of threats, but declined to provide more information. The initial state police response also is being reviewed, Soriano said.
Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for the Albuquerque Police Department, said Sunday that a city police officer contacted Candelaria after his initial 911 call and arranged to periodically drive by the legislator's house to watch for suspicious activity. State police are leading the investigation, Gallegos said.