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Press Release

Luna County inmates plead guilty to assault charges

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Four inmates at the Luna County Detention Center in Deming, New Mexico, have pleaded guilty in federal court to assault upon a person assisting federal officers involving physical contact. All four inmates had been convicted in federal court and sentenced within four to eight months prior to the assault.

According to the plea agreements and other court records, on Feb. 17, 2021, Johnny Black, 36, became angry with corrections staff and started arguing with them. When staff attempted to escort him out of the pod, Black struck an officer, starting an altercation that other inmates joined. Victor Sanchez, 25, saw the altercation and joined Black in striking the officer. As the altercation continued, Jacob Merkel, 23, grabbed another officer and punched him in the face. After Merkel and the officer went to the ground, Merkel got back up and continued the altercation. At that time, Henry Felix emerged from the crowd and attacked the second officer from behind, striking him in the head and body.

Black pleaded guilty on Feb. 22. Sanchez pleaded guilty on Feb. 9. By the terms of their plea agreements, Black and Sanchez each face one year and nine months for the offense. Merkel pleaded guilty on Feb. 7. Felix pleaded guilty on Feb. 4. By the terms of their plea agreements, Merkel and Felix each face one year and three months for the offense. Sanchez, Merkel and Felix are scheduled for sentencing on May 16. No sentencing date has been scheduled for Black.

The U.S. Marshals Service investigated this case. Assistant United States Attorney Nicholas J. Marshall is prosecuting the case.

Updated February 23, 2022

Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 22-36