Alleged Costilla shooter granted conditional release

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Andrew Bernard Mott, a 58-year-old Costilla resident accused of firing a handgun at a New Mexico State Police officer and his family the evening of March 11, was offered a conditional release during an arraignment held Monday (April 24) in Eighth Judicial District Court in Taos.

The accused was initially arraigned in Taos County Magistrate Court on five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a fourth-degree felony, on March 28. After being recommended to district court, one of the five counts was dropped.

State Police Lt. Jose Martinez - the officer who, along with his family, was allegedly assaulted by Mott while driving along County Road B-050 in Costilla on March 11 - was also present in the courtroom on April 24.

Following statements by attorney David Thomas, who represented the state, and attorney Alan Maestas, Mott's defense counsel, Martinez approached the podium and shared some fervent comments about what he described as one of his "most difficult" experiences in law enforcement. Martinez emphasized the danger he said Mott poses to the Taos County community.

Martinez said that he, his wife, son, daughter and 7-year-old granddaughter were on their way to visit a new rodeo arena being built along County Road B-050 in Costilla when they encountered Mott driving another vehicle near the defendant's property. Mott allegedly exited the vehicle with what was believed to have been a .45-caliber firearm, shouted obscenities at the family and pointed the weapon at their vehicle. Mott then allegedly raised the gun slightly into the air and fired one shot that passed over the family's vehicle.

"I was not able to react to the crime that was committed without putting my family in greater danger," Martinez said.

After the incident was reported to state police later that night, other officers went to the scene of the alleged crime and recovered a single .45-caliber shell casing, according to a state police report.

"Your honor," Martinez said, addressing presiding Judge Jeff McElroy, "if you decide to release [Mott], I think there needs to be a bond. ... If [Mott] has money to buy guns and ammo to fire at innocent people that are just out on a ride enjoying the evening, then he should have money to post bail."

Closing his statements, Martinez urged McElroy to impose strict conditions on the defendant. In addition to a bail bond, he requested that any weapons Mott owns be turned in to the Taos County Sheriff's Office and that he be notified whenever Mott were to pass through Questa if he was released.

McElroy responded that he had "to react based on what is before the court" and had to balance Mott's right to "the benefit of the doubt" and ruled that the $140,000 cash-only bond on which the accused has been held since his arrest March 27 would be supplanted by a $20,000 court-appearance bond, effectively allowing Mott a no-bond conditional release.

The conditions imposed by the court require that Mott wear a GPS ankle bracelet and not be in possession of firearms or other dangerous weapons - with the added stipulation that any firearms Mott owns be turned in to the Taos County Sheriff's Office "within three days of release," McElroy said.

Unofficial reports have indicated that Mott may also own a .50-caliber rifle, a submachine gun equipped with a laser sight and a .45-caliber handgun, the weapon law enforcement officials allege was used to assault Martinez and his family the night of March 11.

Since Mott's arrest, however, no firearms have been recovered.

Mott's criminal background also remains a question mark.

Several inquiries into the alleged "violent criminal history" law enforcement and members of the Eighth Judicial District Attorney's Office have cited as a reason for Mott's extraordinary arrest - which included armored vehicles, a bulldozer equipped with a riot shield and a team of heavily armed, specially trained officers - remain yet to be explained in specific detail.

In court on Monday, Thomas did cite a charge filed in Utah that alleges Mott had made a "terrorist threat." Thomas also noted that Mott had been charged with "public intoxication," also in Utah. Thomas did not, however, state whether Mott was ever convicted on the charges, nor were additional charges cited before the court.

Thomas added that since the incident, several Costilla-area residents have come out of the woodwork to share similar run-ins with Mott - many claiming they were assaulted by the defendant in a similar fashion.

Martinez reiterated the claims when he spoke, stating that he "knows the individuals specifically."

But Maestas countered that none of the claims had generated any charges. "As far as I can tell," he said, "this sounds like hearsay, to hearsay, to hearsay - without anything to suggest that it's even true ... "

When asked to elaborate on Mott's criminal background during a phone interview later in the day, Maestas reflected what he had said in court, having little detail to add categorically and reasoning that he "does not have access" to the databases at the district attorney's disposal.

As of press time Wednesday afternooon (April 26), Mott had been fitted with the GPS tracking unit, but was still incarcerated in the Taos County Adult Detention Center. Once jail staff completes a National Crime Information Center (NCIC) background check to ensure that Mott does not have any outstanding warrants in other states, the defendant is expected to be released.

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