By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
More than $5,000 has been donated with $6,000 in pledges pending, in the Tenth Judicial District Attorney’s Office’s continued efforts to honor former district attorney Victor C. Breen.
In January, 10th Judicial District Attorney Tim Rose received permission from the Quay County Commission to dedicate and rename the new law office complex on South Lake street in Breen’s honor.
The building will be named The Victor C. Breen Office of the 10th Judicial District Attorney, to honor Breen’s legacy and service to the community.
“I feel like this is a fitting tribute to Victor C. Breen, a man who proudly served as district attorney and who was slain in the course of performing those duties,” Rose said.
Rose said along with renaming the building, a memorial will be set up in the lobby, designed by Interior designer Brenna Nunn-Smiley of Amarillo, Texas, who has ties to the Breen family. He said the centerpiece of the memorial would be a bronze bust sculpture of Breen, crafted by local artist Bill Curry, who also is a former county commissioner and a friend of Breen. Curry has already begun work on the bust, Rose added.
“It is an honor to be included in this tribute to Victor C. Breen,” Curry said. “The Breen family are good people worthy of this kind of action.”
Rose said the memorial would also feature a canvas painting of the Breen family ranch by artist Doug Quarrels Breen’s biography and several pictures of Breen and his family.
Rose said the purpose of the memorial is to bring Breen’s story to light.
“So many know his name but they don’t know his story, the type of man he was and how he served our county,” Rose said.
Breen was born Dec. 21, 1916 in Forrest, he graduated from Eldorado High School in Kansas and received his law degree from Kansas University. He returned to Tucumcari in 1946 to set up his law practice. Breen became district attorney in 1951.
Breen served as the Tenth Judicial District Attorney for 20 years, until he was assassinated the morning of Dec. 1, 1971 in front of his home in Tucumcari as he was getting into his vehicle on his way try a murder at the courthouse.
Breen, who was 55 at the time, was shot once by a high-powered rifle and died instantly. The shooter was identified later as Jose Rosendo Garcia, 45, who had been waiting in his car 300 feet across the street.
“I can still recall that day. It was snowing as I drove past Victor’s house,” Curry said.
Curry said he saw the car parked at the park across the street from his friends home that morning. He said he questioned why the car was parked there as his continued on his way.
On the day of his murder, Breen was on his way to begin the second day of the murder trial of 17-year-old Joe Jimenez, who had been charged with the killing of 86-year-old Myrtle Spence of Tucumcari.
Then-District Judge J.V. Gallegos postponed the trial after learning of Breen’s death.
An account has been set up at the Quay County Treasurers’ Office to help collect the pledged funds and for people who are interested in donating to the memorial, said Matt Montoya, an investigator with the district attorney’s office.
As of Monday, there has been $5,900 in donations placed into the account for the Breen memorial, said County Treasurer Patsy Gresham.
“Even though he served some time ago this memorial is a credit to the legacy of Breen and his family,” said District 1 County Commissioner Sue Dowell.
Montoya said several entities and individuals have donated and pledged money toward the memorial. He said the Tenth Judicial District Attorney’s Office has a goal of $17,000 to cover the cost of the memorial.
“Honoring Breen is the right thing to do, for his family, our office and our county,” Montoya said.
Montoya said efforts to honor Breen in such a way prompted him to personally honor the slain DA by participating in the New Mexico Law Enforcement Memorial Bike Ride on May 7, from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. He said the event is a 67-mile bike ride for and in the memory of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in New Mexico. “I rode for the honor and memory of Breen,” Montoya said.
Garcia was arrested a few days after the shooting in Belen after information connected him to Breen’s murder.
In February 1972, public defenders Benny Flores and Leon Karelitz represented Garcia before Judge Gallegos, who ruled that Garcia was incompetent to stand trial. The judge issued an order sending the assassin to the state prison in Santa Fe for “safe keeping.”
A provision of the commitment was that Garcia not be removed from the prison without a written order of the court. Less than three years later, in December 1975, without notification to anyone, the court moved Garcia moved back to the state hospital. He subsequently gained outpatient status and returned to Tucumcari. Breen’s family was not notified when Garcia was released.
Garcia died in 1988 without ever having been tried for Breen’s murder.
Rose said at the time of his murder, Breen was only the third district attorney in the nation to be killed in the line of duty. He said in 1912, Virgina’s Commonwealth Attorney William M. Foster was shot and killed in court along with the sheriff, judge, jury foreman and juror. In 1967, Georgia state prosecutor Floyd Hoard was killed by a car bomb.
Donations can be made at the Quay County Treasurer’s Office at the Quay County Court House in Tucumcari.