AG Balderas Announces New Charges to be Filed Against Former Las Cruces Police Officer Accused of Choke Hold Murder of Las Cruces Man

July 16, 2020
Contact: Matt Baca (505) 270-7148

Santa Fe, NM–Today, Attorney General Hector Balderas announced that the Office of the Attorney
General has taken over the prosecution of former Las Cruces Police Department Officer
Christopher Smelser, who stands accused of killing Antonio Valenzuela while in his custody. The
Office of the Attorney General has taken the case at the request of the Third Judicial District
Attorney’s office. In addition to taking the case, the Office of the Attorney General has increased
the charges that Smelser will face to second degree murder.
“We are taking over prosecution and focusing on appropriate charges for violent and dangerous
chokeholds,” said Attorney General Balderas.
District Attorney Mark D’Antonio added: “My office maintains the integrity of the fair trial
process, in the continuation of our efforts to insure justice is served for the victims and defendants.
Since this incident occurred, Attorney General Hector Balderas and his staff have been in contact
with my office regarding this case, as well as police and law enforcement reforms and
accountability for the use of deadly force including the ban placed on chokehold restraint
techniques. In the pursuit for justice and given the seriousness of the charges against Las Cruces
Police Officer Smelser, we agreed that this case be adopted and prosecuted by the New Mexico
Attorney General.”
After working with the District Attorney to fully review the case, the Office of the Attorney
General determined that the evidence warrants a charge of second degree murder. Smelser was
originally charged with manslaughter.

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