A former New Mexico cop has been charged with murder for killing a Latino man he had placed in a chokehold, State Attorney General Hector Balderas announced on Thursday.

In a statement, Balderas said that the Office of the Attorney General was taking over the prosecution of former Las Cruces Police Department officer Christopher Smelser, a white man who is accused of killing Antonio Valenzuela while he was in custody. Smelser, as CBS News points out, had initially been fired and charged with manslaughter in connection with the February 2020 killing of Antonio Valenzuela. He is now charged with second-degree murder.

"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," District Attorney Mark D'Antonio said. "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."

Police footage of the moments following a foot chase included Smelser telling Valenzuela "I'm going to fucking choke you out, bro." The coroner's office later announced their assessment that Valenzuela, who was pronounced dead at the scene, had died due to asphyxial injuries.

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