Updated Jan. 28 at 12 p.m.
Equipped with tactical gear and weapons, the Taos County Sheriff's Office Special Response Team performed a SWAT-like raid on a Kit Carson Road residence Friday morning (Jan. 19), resulting in the arrest of three wanted individuals and the recovery of roughly 20 grams of heroin and methamphetamine.
A joint investigation conducted with the Taos Adult Probation and Parole Office had allowed the sheriff's office to determine that the home - located not far from a stretch of galleries and shops near Kit Carson's busy four-way intersection - harbored at least one fugitive, Jaelynn Duran, possibly other individuals, narcotics and firearms, according to a press release from the sheriff's office.
The sheriff's office was able to gain court approval for what is known as a "no-knock" search warrant, which allows law enforcement to make entry into a residence without making their presence known - a procedure required by standard search warrants as per the Fourth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.
No-knock searches are often used in cases where law enforcement have reason to believe announcing their presence prior to entry may allow residents time to destroy evidence pertaining to an investigation or pose an increased threat to officer safety.
No-knocks are commonly performed by SWAT teams; Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe, however, says that his special response team is trained to handle such high-pressure tactical situations.
After "quick but careful planning," the team entered the home and arrested Duran, Eric Griego and Miguel Apodaca, who had all been wanted on warrants within various New Mexico jurisdictions, according to the press release. Three other individuals were also arrested inside the residence: Valorie Sillas for harboring or aiding a felon; Roxanne Sanchez for harboring or aiding a felon and possessing controlled substances; and Alden Lujan, a felon, for harboring or aiding a felon and possessing a firearm.
Ten grams of heroin and methamphetamine, respectively, were also allegedly discovered inside the home and will be sent to the New Mexico Department of Public Safety for testing. Law enforcement also discovered two firearms, a Ruger 10-22 semi-automatic rifle and an antique Winchester Mod 69A .22-caliber rifle. Hogrefe said the second weapon might be linked to an open burglary case, but he added that neither weapon had been illegally modified.
Both Duran and Griego allegedly attempted to resist during the raid, according to the press release, with Griego allegedly arming himself with a knife and threatening response team members, who had to "subdue" the man before taking him into custody.
According to research conducted on no-knock searches, however, last week's operation was among a minority that go according to plan and don't result in bodily harm to law enforcement, residents or innocent bystanders.
"Obviously, the risks are basically that whoever is inside can get surprised, and then they react in a violent or excessive manner," said 8th Judicial District Attorney Donald Gallegos. "The potential is there."
The standard procedure that law enforcement knock before entering a residence has been affirmed in Supreme Court cases, such as Miller v. United States (1958), when the court recognized that police must provide notice before making entry, forced or otherwise.
In the 1995 case of Wilson v. Arkansas, the Supreme Court ruled that an exception could be made in situations where evidence might be destroyed during standard searches. In 2006, in Hudson v. Michigan, the Court further expanded the ruling to mean that law enforcement could recover admissible evidence even when entering a dwelling illegally.
According to Peter Kraska, a criminologist at Eastern Kentucky University who was quoted in a 2006 article published in the Christian Science Monitor, "no-knock" searches increased from approximately 3,000 in 1981 to more than 50,000 by 2005, many resulting in death or serious injury.
"No knocks are not that common," Hogrefe said in an email. "When we suspect known felons or absconders and have information about firearms in the house, we will ask for a no knock."
Hogrefe estimates that his SRT team performed only two no-knock searches in 2017, but when they become necessary, he ensures that every SRT team member is trained to be meticulous in his or her planning, and especially cautious when executing each search.
"There is always concern," Hogrefe said. "That's why the SRT trains to move quickly but be thorough. Tactics dictate a look out or surveillance, so we choose the best and safest time and approach if at all possible."