Two Valencia County deputies injured during a multi-scene shooting last Friday have been discharged from the hospital and are recovering at home.
Valencia County Sheriff Denise Vigil said on Tuesday the two deputies are on paid administrative leave following Friday’s incident, which is standard procedure after a shooting involving a deputy.
A third, uninjured deputy who was involved in the shooting that killed Jose Angel Baca, 28, of Los Lunas, on Friday, Sept. 3, is also on paid administrative leave.
“Because (New Mexico State Police) have taken over the investigation in terms of the officer-involved shooting, I don’t have more information at this time,” Vigil said.
The incident began about 3 p.m. on Friday when a Valencia County sheriff’s deputy was dispatched to the area of mile marker 19 on N.M. 6, west of the village of Los Lunas. When the deputy arrived, he found a Honda Civic, as well and a man, later identified as Baca, and a woman.
New Mexico State Police Chief Tim Johnson said during a press conference Friday evening the exact details of the contact between the deputy and Baca and the woman are still being investigated.
“We’re looking into that piece to figure out exactly what happened, but at some point, it appears gunfire was exchanged between the male subject and the deputy,” Johnson said.
The deputy was struck at least once by gunfire, and Baca and the woman fled in a white Dodge pickup truck. The deputy alerted dispatchers at the Valencia Regional Emergency Communications Center about the incident, and a short time later, additional VCSO deputies and Los Lunas police officers located and began pursuing the truck driving east on N.M. 6/Main Street through Los Lunas.
State police officers in the area heard the radio traffic and assisted in the pursuit. The driver of the Dodge turned north onto N.M. 314, eventually losing control of the vehicle and crashing near Davila Road, Johnson said.
After the crash, the woman got out of the truck and ran east on foot, the chief said, and Baca began shooting at the two Valencia County deputies and a NMSP officer at the scene.
The three officers returned fire, killing the suspect. At this time, Johnson said it is unknown which officer fired the fatal shot.
“We won’t know that until we’ve done trajectory at the crime scene, other analysis,” he said.
One of the two VCSO deputies involved in the shooting on N.M. 314 was injured by shrapnel and, along with the deputy shot on N.M. 6, was taken to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries Friday afternoon.
The state police officer involved in the shooting is also on paid administrative leave.
The woman with Baca was detained and interviewed Friday, Johnson said, but her name isn’t being released. She hasn’t been charged with a crime.
The chase through Los Lunas caused several crashes along Main Street, Johnson said, which were handled by the sheriff’s office and Los Lunas Police Department.
LLPD Chief Naithan Gurule said the pursuit caused one crash, involving four vehicles.
“One person went to the hospital later in the evening and was diagnosed with a concussion,” Gurule told the News-Bulletin Saturday morning.
Vigil said she was grateful for the assistance of the state police and LLPD.
“My prayers are with the deputies and their families. They will never be the same,” Vigil said. “They are expected to just continue on, but they’ll never, ever be the same.”
The two Valencia County deputies brought the total number of law enforcement officers injured in New Mexico on Friday to three, Johnson said. A Doña Ana County sheriff’s deputy sustained minor injuries from bullet fragments after responding to call of shots fired earlier that day.
“I just want to wish the best to the two deputies that were injured today, the one officer in Las Cruces earlier today, to the sheriff and her department, the families of the deputies and to my officer, who probably won’t ever be the same, as you aren’t after these types of incidents,” Johnson said.
“Four (Albuquerque Police Department) officers were shot two weeks ago. I am beyond disgusted with the violence we’re seeing in the state.”
According to a press release put out by the state police on Saturday, Sept. 4, at the time of Friday’s incident, Baca had been recently released from probation for aggravated battery upon a police officer resulting in great bodily harm, battery on a household member and resisting, evading or obstructing an officer during arrest.
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.