NM police officer shot and killed; suspects in custody – USA TODAY
LAS CRUCES, N.M.Â — A police officer from the Hatch Police Department died Friday evening after being shot during a traffic stop, authorities said.
Officials took three suspects into custody hours earlier and said theyÂ were allegedly responsible for the officer shooting as well asÂ aÂ carjacking and shooting another man at a rest stop off Interstate 25 in a crime spree that triggered a massive manhunt.
The slain officer, identified as Jose Chavez, 33, was a two-year veteran of the Hatch Police Department. The nearly four-hour episode started to unfold when Chavez pulled over a gray Lexus on Franklin Street at 3:41 p.m., according to Kelly Jameson, spokeswoman for the DoÃ±a Ana County Sheriffâs Office.
âDuring the traffic stop, a passenger who was in that vehicle reportedly exited the vehicle and fired shots at the officer,â Jameson said, adding that another officer had witnessed the shooting and called âon the radio that we had an officer down.â
The Associated Press reported that the officer had been struck in the neck. Dona Ana County officials have not identified the suspects.
A newspaper in Ohio hasÂ linked two Ohio fugitives to Friday’s shooting. James D.Â Nelson II and Jesse Hanes are wanted in Ohio in connection toÂ July’sÂ shooting deathÂ of 62-year-old Londonderry, Ohio, resident, Theodore Timmons, the Chillicothe Gazette reported.
After calling for medical help, the officer who witnessed the shooting in Hatch began to chase the occupants in the gray Lexus, who had fled from the scene, Jameson said. The chase, along southbound I-25, reached speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, and the officer was unable to âcatch up to that vehicle,â she said.
Arthur Cox, a senior at New Mexico State University, said he was driving south on I-25, heading to Las Cruces, when he spotted the gray Lexus driving erratically around 3:45 p.m. near mile maker 37. The Lexus, Cox said, was coming from behind his vehicle and was âweaving around traffic.â It passed him and âcame within inches of hitting me.â
After the Lexus passed Coxâs vehicle, it went on the shoulder of the interstate and drove between a semitrailer and the traffic barrier, said Cox, who reported the vehicle to authorities after it exited the interstate. According to Jameson, the Lexus exited I-25 at the rest stop nearÂ Radium Springs.
âThe suspects abandoned the vehicle they were in and reportedly carjacked a red Chevrolet Cruze at the rest area and allegedly shot the driver of that car,â Jameson said. The driver of Chevrolet Cruze also was transported to UMC, she added. The driver’s condition is unknown.
âWe know that the suspects in the red Chevrolet Cruze from the rest stop went to N.M. 185,â she said. âDeputies who were alerted to that car spotted and gave chase once again.â
Authorities were able to deflate the vehicleâs tires with âstop sticks,â Jameson said, but the driver was able to turn the vehicle into a residence in the 23000 block of N.M. 185. âThe suspect was unable to control that vehicle, and it crashed into a pile of wood and came to rest,â she said.
Deputies had to âcoaxedâ the driver out of the vehicle, Jameson added. Deputies observed the driver was suffering from a gunshot wound to his thigh. He was taken into custody around 5 p.m. and was transported to a hospital for medical attention.
The two other suspects were captured before 7 p.m. in the 2400 block of Rincon. No charges had been filed against the three suspects as of Friday evening. And their identities were not immediately known.
The incident triggered an intense, multiple-jurisdiction manhunt that was initiated by sheriffâs office.
âIt involved every agency in DoÃ±a Ana County,â Jameson said, including federal agencies.
It was unknown Friday when the last time a Hatch police officer had been shot while on duty.
âI can tell you that the Hatch Police Department isÂ eight officersÂ strong. They are a very small department, a very close-knit department,â Jameson said. âI donât know when the last time Hatch experienced an incident of this nature.â
Roads entering Hatch wereÂ closedÂ as of Friday night.