By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
Tenth Judicial District Attorney Tim Rose received permission Monday from the Quay County Commission to dedicate and rename the new office on South Lake street in honor of former district attorney Victor C. Breen.
“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 requested permission to dedicate the building in Breen’s honor as the Victor C. Breen Office of the 10th Judicial District Attorney and to pay for the cost of the lettering during the Monday’s regular commission meeting.
Honoring Breen is the right thing to do, for our office and our county,” Rose said.
Breen, who served as the Tenth Judicial District Attorney for 20 years, 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.
“My sister (Viki Breen) and I are so thankful for all that the people of Tucumcari have done to honor our father Victor C. Breen, said Nancy Nunn, Breen’s daughter.
Nunn said his murder was a very tragic loss and she only wishes her mother would have lived to see this dedication.
Breen, 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,” said Bill Curry, Breen’s friend and Tucumcari resident.
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.
Garcia was arrested a few days later in Belen after information connected him to Breen’s murder.
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 and became district attorney in 1951.
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.
Along with the dedication and lettering of the building Rose asked the commission to act as the fiscal agent for the Victor C. Breen Memorial fund. The memorial will be in the lobby, the center piece of the memorial will be a bronze bust sculpture of Breen, crafted by Curry a local artist and former county commissioner. The memorial will also feature a mural by artist Doug Quarrels. Interior designer Brenna Nunn-Smiley of Amarillo, Texas, (who has ties to the Breen family) was asked to design the memorial.
“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.”
Nunn, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said she and her sister plan on attending the dedication ceremony.
Nunn said she and her sister have known for a year about the plans to dedicate the building in honor of their father. She said she wished her father knew just how much the town thought of him.
Commissioner Sue Dowell, district 1, commended the efforts of the DA’s office to honor Breen in such a way. She said she is touched by the amount of work put into this tribute.
“Victor C. Breen was a great individual and I appreciate what you all are doing to honor him,” said District 2 Commissioner Mike Cherry.
Rose said at the time of his murder, Breen was only the third district attorney in the US to be killed in the line of duty. He said in 1912 Virgina’s Commonwealth Attorney (prosecutor), 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.
In February 1972, public defenders Benny Flores and Leon Karelitz represented Garcia before District Court Judge J. V. 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.