Other than an estimated 400 Bandido motorcycle club members in town celebrating the life of Damian Breaux on June 10, life went on as usual in Socorro, New Mexico.
In the historic city plaza, children’s laughter competed with shoppers trying to hear the prices of local growers’ produce at the Farmers Market—the strains of local acoustic musicians providing a vibrant theme on a beautiful sunny day.
In the background, a Socorro police officer circles the plaza in his cruiser.
A block over, a New Mexico State trooper turns the corner onto California Steet and gets behind a group of eight Bandido motorcyclists on their way to Breaux’s funeral. The group turns their deep-throated, rumbling motorcycles west onto Spring Street, and the trooper proceeds south.
Some of the multiagency police task force’s efforts were not so subtle, like the unmarked helicopter equipped with a large camera that repeatedly circled the Socorro County Convention Center. Anyone writing down the chopper’s “N” number for a check later would find the answer of “no return” for the aircraft from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Nearby in the shade of the trees at the Socorro Rodeo and Sports Complex, a vehicle is parked facing the gathering of bikers. The occupant keeps a steady eye on passersby and spends the duration of the funeral gathering just watching.
The vehicle’s occupant sees a steady stream of Bandido bikers that arrive via Highways 60 or 1, and they are greeted by anywhere from eight to 10 gatekeepers who ensured only those who belonged got inside.
State, county and local law enforcement had been planning for the day for almost two weeks after Breaux, 46, a fellow Bandido Anthony Silva, 26, of Los Lunas, and a rival Waterdog motorcycle club member Randy Sanchez, 46, of Albuquerque, were killed in a Memorial Day weekend shootout in Red River on May 27.
Waterdog member Jacob Castillo of Rio Rancho, 30, was also wounded in the gun battle. Castillo, who has been charged with first-degree murder, is claiming he fired in self-defense.
Socorro County Sheriff Lee Armijo confirmed that his department, the Socorro Police Department and the New Mexico State Police had been meeting to discuss plans. Still, Armijo declined to discuss the logistics and tactics involved, only saying the police presence would be in the background.
More were tucked away, such as the support elements that included an additional ambulance crew on standby in their vehicle throughout the six-hour gathering. Armijo had also reached out to his reserve deputies to strengthen his force.
The rumor mill around Socorro had anywhere from 400 to 2,000 people coming to attend Breaux’s funeral. Confusing media reports suggested that the town would be shutting down in response.
On June 7, Mayor Ravi Bhasker posted on his Facebook page about the upcoming event with a “large group from out of town.”
Bhasker said, “Being respectful to the family for the loss of one (of) our own citizens is important to remember for all those who live in our city. That is what we will be asking from the visitors. There will be large presence of law enforcement in town just for that purpose.” The post was shared 23 times, drew 95 comments and was liked by 97 prior to the funeral.
A couple of local nightspots elected to close on Friday and Saturday, one for the reason of “software upgrades,” but they were the exception.
Some Socorro restaurants turned to Facebook. Socorro Springs Restaurant posted a meme saying, “We are open…. hope to see you soon.” The Jackson Ranch Steakhouse’s post announced that their BBQ pulled pork sandwich was available for a limited time, and that they would be open all day until 8:30 p.m.
Those two restaurants were like most places of business with their doors open, welcoming customers. The discount liquor store remained open, as did the local cannabis stores.
In general, the consensus of Socorro residents questioned if they were worried about Saturday said they felt Breaux’s family and friends deserved privacy and respect as they grieved. They also said they didn’t expect any trouble, and there wasn’t.