After reviewing surveillance video apparently showing former Congressional District 1 Republican primary candidate Gary Smith slashing the tires of at least four fellow Republicans, including his primary opponent, Janice Arnold-Jones, Albuquerque Police Department Detectives have issued a warrant for his arrest.
Here's the video:
Detective Lorenzo Garcia tells SFR he plans to charge Smith with criminal damage to property over $1000 - a fourth degree felony.
Updated 5:30 pm Friday: Garcia tells SFR police arrested Smith without incident Friday afternoon, after this story posted. Smith invoked his right to remain silent and made no statement to police, APD says.
Arnold-Jones and her husband John Jones say they were feeling vulnerable after finding their vehicles’ tires punctured on back-to-back dates, and decided to set up a rooftop camera the week before Christmas.
“I had a hunch it was him,” Arnold-Jones tells SFR. “People tried to tell me it was the work of Democrats, but I knew that wasn’t the case. This isn’t the normal kind of political retribution you might expect. This is scary.”
The couple told police they’ve had 19 tires slashed in December. Three were repaired, but the rest had to be replaced. Together, they’ve spent $1,500 replacing Arnold-Jones’ Ford Expedition tires. Jones’ employer has spent another $2,200 replacing the tires on his Ford F-150 work truck.
Arnold-Jones says she’s seen people lose committee assignments, office and parking spaces, and occasionally heard about family members’ jobs being threatened as political payback, but insists Smith’s behavior is completely different.
“It’s the behavior of a very unstable man,” Arnold-Jones says, adding that she’s worried Smith’s apparent rage could be escalating.
And she’s not alone.
At least four other Republican operatives have also complained about their tires being vandalized by Smith in the past six months.
Smith’s election experience was rocky. He ran a largely self-funded campaign, contributing $51,300 of his own money and loaning his campaign another $243,000. He received only $380 in individual donations—$300 of which was refunded. But the spending didn’t pay off: At the Republican pre-primary nominating commission, Smith received only 3 percent of the vote, compared to Arnold-Jones 63 percent and Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis’ 34 percent.
In April, Smith appeared visibly upset when District Court Judge C Shannon Bacon determined that 416 of his nominating petition signatures were invalid and booted him off June’s primary ballot. Soon after the judge’s ruling, Smith told a television reporter he believed several Republican voters associated with Arnold-Jones’ campaign had “repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly” stabbed him in the back.
Smith, a veteran intelligence officer, appealed to the state’s highest court, but when the justices affirmed Bacon’s ruling, he returned to private life.
Rhead Story, Smith’s campaign manager, told police he’s lost almost 40 tires since discovering the first set flattened in June.
Originally, he thought it was a random act and decided not to call police. But, after replacing several more sets of punctured tires, Rhead and his wife Wanda Story also decided to set up a portable camera.
Before the camera was operational, Wanda says she encountered Smith walking near their car outside at her Albuquerque apartment complex. It didn’t take her long to notice that Smith was carrying some sort of utility tool or ice pick. Scared for her life, Wanda dropped a laundry basket she’d been carrying and ran to safety inside her apartment.
The Storys say
they have spent over $2,500 replacing their car’s tires. Here's their video:
Former interim party chair Charlie Tipton and Frank Ruvolo, who co-signed the court complaint challenging Smith’s petitions, have also reported losing tires.
All four of Ruvolo’s tires were found punctured in the parking lot of the Golden Corral Restaurant following a Republican Party breakfast just before Thanksgiving.
“Gary was at the breakfast, but at first I didn’t think about it being due to his vandalism,” Ruvolo says. “But, when it happened again on Dec. 7, and after tracking down the others who’ve had tires slashed, I believe Gary is responsible.”
APD Detective Lorenzo Garcia says he has not been able to find Smith, but says if he’s able to show a pattern of criminal conduct by Smith, he’ll charge him with stalking.
If the victims get a restraining order against Smith and it is violated, police say, they can enhance the charge to aggravated stalking—a felony.
For now, the group of Republicans just hope police take Smith off the street quickly.
“His mind is twisted,” Arnold-Jones says. “This is a threat to our safety and an evasion of our privacy.”
The assaults have taken a toll on the families during the holidays.
“It’s worse than the Grinch stealing Christmas,” Rhead Story says. “It’s like something has snapped in his mind. It seems to be he’s after everyone he thinks was against him. He’s definitely not the same successful and rational man who presented himself to me when he was looking for a campaign manager last year.”
Story is also concerned about the violence taking a turn for the worse.
“I’ve seen him carrying a service revolver in the past,” Story says.
Arnold-Jones says the constant threat has kept her husband up at night, patrolling the house every two hours.
“Being up and down all night leaves me cranky,” Jones says. “We need to get him off the street and get him some help.”
evidence in hand, each of the victims now plan to seek reimbursement from Smith
for their out-of-pocket expenses.
Smith has not returned SFR’s calls seeking comment.
Editor's note: SFR originally reported that Smith had attended the Army Command and General Staff College. We obtained that information via a Facebook page for a Gary Smith, but we cannot confirm that is the same Gary Smith involved in this story, so we have deleted that part of the sentence.