Charges dropped in drug deal gone wrong

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Drug charges have been dropped against the two men at the center of a drug deal gone wrong. It was during the drug bust earlier this month that an undercover Albuquerque Police detective was shot by a his Lieutenant.

Police said two men were selling undercover officers meth at a McDonald’s parking lot near Tramway and Central on Jan. 9, when things took a turn. APD Lieutenant Greg Brachle fired his gun, hitting fellow detective, Jacob Grant.

Detective Grant is still in critical condition, hit by friendly fire during a $60 drug buy.

Albuquerque Police said Damien Bailey and Edmond Vester sold undercover cops meth. However,  KRQE News 13 has learned drug charges against the two men were dropped at the request of APD.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Troy Davis said he received a call last week from the APD narcotics detective who took control of the cases against Bailey and Vester.

“He told me that the (narcotics) unit was kind of recovering from what happened and asked if we could give them some time,” Davis told KRQE News 13. “I said that would be no problem. We do intend to refile the charges.”

Davis used a legal maneuver that allowed the DA’s Office to dismiss the meth trafficking and conspiracy charges against the men without prejudice. That means they can be refiled at a later date.

Otherwise, the DA’s Office would have had to present the case to a grand jury within 10 days of arrest.

Davis said it is not uncommon for APD to ask prosecutors to slow the clock down, particularly in a drug case.

“We’ve had them call when we were about to indict someone and ask us not to because they were trying to get that person to cooperate,” he said. “This is obviously a really unique situation. I can’t remember something like this happening in this jurisdiction before.”

The narcotics detective who called Davis did not say when APD might be ready to proceed on the case, Davis said.

“He said the narcotics unit is on light duty right now,” Davis said. “He said they want to get back in the field, but it’s going to take some time … At some point, I may have to call them: If I haven’t heard from them within 60 days or so, I will give them a holler and say: ‘You can’t just sit on this forever.’ It wasn’t, like, a major buy. It was a small deal going down; $60 worth is not very much in terms of a trafficking case.”

The case had belonged to APD Detective Holly Garcia, he said, but she “apparently took some shrapnel” when the drug sting went sideways and APD Lt. Greg Brachle opened fire on a city-owned undercover vehicle.

Brachle shot Detective Grant multiple times, police have said.

Because Garcia had been injured, Davis said, another narcotics detective assumed responsibility for the case. That’s the detective who requested the charges be temporarily dismissed.

“I can understand people not wanting to relive something like this so quickly,” Davis said.

APD wouldn’t go on camera, but did answer questions over the phone. An APD spokesperson sent the following statement:

“The cases concerning Damien Bailey and Edmond Vester have been Nolle Prosequi and will be refiled once all officers involved are in a better state to assist with prosecution. This is in an effort to protect the suspects’ constitutional rights, and ensure a thorough investigation can be completed. The charges will be refiled at a later date.”

Lieutenant Brachle has already been interviewed, Detective Grant has not.

Grant was with undercover Detective Garcia in a black car during the drug deal and suffered a minor injury.

APD explained Garcia is still on administrative leave, and cannot yet appear in front of a grand jury.

Vester is out of jail. Bailey is still in jail on a $100 bond for a separate shoplifting charge.

There are still questions about the shooting. An APD spokesperson said one of the suspects pulled out what police later learned was a pellet gun. Police said at some point Grant broke his cover, but cannot confirm why.

Both Bailey and Vester have not yet faced weapons charges or assault on an officer in this case. However, APD said they can still do that.

It’s still unclear why Lieutenant Brachle fired, or how many times Detective Grant was shot. APD has declined daily requests from KRQE News 13 for interviews on the shooting.

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