A tragic and senseless incident took place in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. An 82-year-old woman named Juneanne Fannell was killed by the caretaker. This story raises questions about laws intended to prevent tragedies like this.
On April 5, the Rio Rancho Police and Fire Departments responded to a call at Fannell’s residence. Henry Cardana, who had been Fannell’s caretaker for years, had called 911, claiming that the woman was uncontrollable and needed to be removed for her safety. During the call, Fannell also spoke to the 911 operator. She expressed fear, said she believed she was in danger, and mentioned that there were firearms in the home.
Cardana was approached by officers after arriving at the scene. They began a discussion about guns.
Rio Rancho police officers spoke with Cardana regarding the firearms in the home.
“You’re a firearms guy?” an officer asked.
“Oh, yeah,” Cardana said.
“Nice,” the officer said.
“They’re loaded. They’re ready to go,” Cardana said.
“We don’t need to see them,” the officer said. “There’s one probably right there in that case. And I see another one over there.”
The officer continued saying, “I like folks that have guns,” since he is a gun owner himself. As the officers begin to say their goodbyes to Cardana and Fannell, she begs them to stay at home.
As the officers were about to leave, the conversation began to take a darker tone. “What did you say?” Fannell asked Cardana, who responded: “I said you’re fine until I kill you.”
Fannell replied to the officers, “Alright?” He has threatened to do this.”
The officers left. Four hours later, the neighbor called 911 telling the operator that Cardana “was screaming for help and told us to call the police” because “he says he’s killed her.”
This incident brought to light the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act of New Mexico, which went into effect in 2020. The law allows police and prosecutors to petition a court for the seizure of guns from individuals who are a credible danger to themselves or to others. In this case, however, the officers failed to use the law, despite the fact that there were valid reasons.
The majority of New Mexico’s elected sheriffs oppose the law and have stated that they will not enforce it. The law passed allows for law enforcement to petition the court.
Gun owners will be notified to have their guns confiscated if they pose a credible risk of harming themselves or others. John Day, a legal expert, explains the process.
Day explained that there was a legal process by which law enforcement could go to court to get a temporary injunction saying to get the guns and put them somewhere safe. We’ll take care of this, and we’ll let some time pass. Let people cool down.
Chief Steward Steward Steele released a statement in which he explained how the officers handled the situation.
Juneanne did not seem to be in danger when officers left the scene. There was no reason to suspect that any criminal activity occurred. Officers were not able to see any signs of distress, and the comments about using a gun appeared to be made in jest and insincerity. The officers had no reason to believe that either individual intended to commit an act of violence in the near future.
The statement continues:
According to the entire circumstances of the first call, it was not possible to establish probable cause for a criminal investigation. Nor could there be a substantial danger of imminent injury to either party as a result of their access to a gun. The Officers did not have the authority to arrest or place either party into protective custody against their will.