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‘We’re calling for justice’: Protesters hold moment of silence for man killed by Las Cruces officer

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico -- The sister of the man killed by Las Cruces police in February joined a few dozen protesters on Saturday to demand justice.

"It doesn't matter who you are," said Valerie Chavez, the sister of Antonio Valenzuela. "You don't deserve to get killed the way my brother got killed."

In February, Valenzuela died in police custody after Las Cruces police Officer Christopher Smelser used a controversial vascular neck restraint to stop Valenzuela from fleeing police, according to body camera video obtained by ABC-7.

Earlier this month, was Smelser charged with manslaughter.

"I was already outraged, but I think for Las Cruces, it was a wakeup call that it happens here too," said Darnicia Holt, the organizer of the protest. "Police brutality exists here."

Chavez said she wants the officer's charge of involuntary manslaughter increased to second degree murder in connection with the death of her brother.

"He didn't have a chance," Chavez said at the protest.

Smelser's attorney insists he was using a police department trained method of restraining a suspect.

"I can't help but think that it's because of our the way that everybody is feeling now, so overwhelmingly sad and concerned about police officers," Amy Orlando told ABC-7 last week. "But because a few really bad cops did something horrific in Minneapolis, it doesn't mean every officer is a bad officer."

Article Topic Follows: New Mexico

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Kate Bieri

Kate Bieri is a former ABC-7 New Mexico Mobile Newsroom reporter and weekend evening newscast anchor.


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