LOS CHAVEZ—New Mexico State Police are investigating a shooting involving a Valencia County sheriff’s deputy that occurred Saturday morning.
Shortly before 7 a.m., Saturday, March 6, deputies responded to a 911 call for a domestic disturbance at a home on the 20 block of Plata Road in Los Chavez. The caller told the dispatcher the suspect, a man, was “freaking out” and armed with a knife and hatchet. Deputies met with the victim, who reported the male suspect was her grandson.
According to a press release from NMSP, deputies on scene ordered the man to put down the knife and hatchet he was allegedly holding, but he moved towards them in an “aggressive manner.”
A deputy discharged his gun at least once, shooting the man. NMSP spokesman Mark Soriano said the man will face charges when he’s released from the hospital but until he is charged, the agency won’t release his name.
The man’s mother, Shamma Bench, who lives in California, said he is mentally challenged, something the deputy didn’t take into consideration. Bench declined to name her son, saying she wanted to protect him.
“They could have (used a stun gun on) him. He was probably upset at the moment, having an episode,” Bench said. “He would have mellowed out.”
Bench said the woman who made the 911 call is her mother.
“He was freaking out, threatening to hurt her and other people,” said the press release from NMSP. “The woman told deputies her grandson was still inside the residence.”
As deputies approached the residence, they noticed the front door was open and began calling for the man to come out of the house. As deputies entered the house, they made contact with a man who was armed …
Deputies gave commands to the man to drop his weapons, which he ignored, according to the same press release. The man began to yell at deputies, “I want to kill people” and “kill me.”
Deputies continued to give commands, however the suspect ignored them and moved towards the deputies in an aggressive manner. A Valencia County deputy discharged his gun at least once, shooting the man.
Bench said normally during one of her 20-year-old son’s episodes, her mother will call so she can calm him down.
“We’ll talk and that will calm him down,” she said. “The cops have been to the house more than this time,”
Bench said her son has spent time in a mental facility and is autistic, has Asperger Syndrome and a mood disorder. She said deputies who responded to her mother’s home in the past were made aware of her son’s mental problems, but didn’t know if they were told in the most recent call.
“He’s not at his age level mentally,” she said. “I’d say he’s like a teenager still.”
NMSP reported the man was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries, but Bench says he was in critical condition with multiple injuries that will require multiple surgeries. She said he was shot in his right arm and lower left torso.
Deputies rendered aid to the man on scene until EMS arrived. He was transported by emergency personnel to an Albuquerque hospital, where he is being treated for his injuries.
“I believe this was unjustified and they wrongfully shot him,” Bench said. “It’s just upsetting. They are making him look like he’s the bad one.”
Once he is released from the hospital, Bench plans to take her son home with her.
New Mexico State Police are still investigating the shooting and will not release the name of the deputy until all interviews are completed.
VCSO spokesman Lt. Joseph Rowland said the deputy hasn’t been involved in any previous shootings, and was placed on a standard three-day administrative leave after the shooting.
Upon completion of the state police investigation, this case will be forwarded to an assigned district attorney’s office for review.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.