A shooting outside a Belen restaurant led to a chase that ended with a New Mexico State Police officer killing the suspect after an exchange of gunfire Saturday afternoon on Interstate 40 west of Albuquerque.
“The identification of the officers and male subject will not be released at this time. No officers were injured during the incident,” New Mexico State Police spokesman Dusty Francisco said.
The officer involved has been placed on standard administrative leave.
Belen Police Chief James Harris said the incident began just after 10:30 a.m. Saturday when a 51-year-old woman was waiting in her car for her order at Burritos Alinstante in Belen. A man driving a 2004 silver-colored Nissan Xterra SUV, who had also ordered and asked to wait for his order, pulled up next to her.
“It was a random incident, but he fired a single shot, shooting through his passenger window, striking her in the arm,” Harris said. “The two didn’t know each other. He then fled.”
Harris said the description of the suspect’s vehicle was given to surrounding law enforcement agencies.
Francisco said around 11 a.m., the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office asked for State Police assistance after the man fled a traffic stop with deputies along N.M. 6 and headed toward Interstate 40.
He said a State Police officer caught up to the vehicle on I-40 and, along with Laguna police, gave chase when the man refused to stop. The driver evaded multiple spike strips and at least one pursuit-intervention maneuver, before a second such maneuver brought the westbound vehicle to a stop in the median of I-40 near milepost 114.
Francisco said officers gave the driver commands to exit the vehicle and a Laguna police officer fired a bean bag round into the window of the vehicle.
He said the man then fired a round through the windshield at officers and a State Police officer fired back, at least one round, at the man. The man continued to ignore commands, and a Laguna officer fired another bean bag before police approached and found the man unresponsive.
Francisco said the man had a rifle in his lap and was pronounced dead at the scene.
The woman who was shot in Belen is expected to survive.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.