The names of the Valencia County deputies and New Mexico State Police officer involved in a fatal shooting earlier this month have been released, along with additional details about the incident.
At about 3 p.m., Friday, Sept. 3, two Valencia County Sheriff’s deputies — Jacob Townsend and Cheyanne Sacoman — responded to a report of two suspicious people on N.M. 6 near mile marker 19.
When the deputies arrived, they found a black Hyundai passenger vehicle, which was reported stolen and had a stolen license plate on it, according to a press release from New Mexico State Police. The two deputies separated in an attempt to locate the suspicious people reported in the area.
Townsend returned to the stolen Hyundai, where he found a man, later identified as Jose Angel Baca, 28, of Los Lunas, and a woman, as well as a white Dodge pickup truck.
According to the press release, Townsend’s body camera footage captured him announcing himself as law enforcement and giving verbal commands to the suspects.
Baca is seen on the footage holding what appeared to be a metal chain, the release states, and showed Baca ignoring the deputy’s commands and turning towards the driver-side door of the Hyundai. Townsend unsuccessfully discharged his taser, and Baca continued to try and get in the vehicle and drive away.
Townsend, who was still alone at that time, is seen trying to physically restrain Baca and remove him from the Hyundai. Video footage shows the deputy create distance from Baca and the vehicle, at which time gunshots are exchanged between Baca and Townsend.
The deputy was struck by gunfire from Baca, who then fled the area in the white Dodge pickup truck with the woman. Townsend is seen crawling back to his police vehicle, where he applied a tourniquet to his injured leg and radioed the incident to dispatch.
VCSO deputies and NMSP units in the area who heard the radio broadcast quickly located the Dodge truck and engaged it in a pursuit east on N.M. 6 through the village of Los Lunas.
During the pursuit, Baca is seen on video footage driving erratically at a high rate of speed east on Main Street in Los Lunas in dense traffic.
LLPD Chief Naithan Gurule said the pursuit caused one crash, involving four vehicles and sending one person to the hospital later that evening with a concussion.
During the pursuit, Baca at times drove in the wrong direction down Main Street. Footage shows Baca drive through a restaurant’s parking lot, eventually turn north on N.M. 314 and stop near the railroad tracks and Trujillo Road.
The video footage shows Baca get out of the driver’s side door of the Dodge and begin to fire gunshots at VCSO Sgt. Victor Duran, who was standing outside his vehicle after the pursuit. Duran returned fire toward Baca, who continued shooting at the sergeant while advancing around the police vehicle towards the driver’s side door.
Video shows VCSO Deputy Miles Salmons and NMSP Officer Wilson Silver arrive and get out of their vehicles. Salmons and Silver quickly move towards Baca, who continued to fire gunshots at Duran. Both Salmons and Silver fire at Baca.
Sgt. Duran was injured by shrapnel during the exchange of gunfire.
According to the press release, Baca, who was actively attempting to attack (Duran), was struck by gunfire at the driver’s side of the sergeant’s police vehicle. Baca suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased on scene by the Office of the Medical Investigator.
The woman with Baca fled the area on foot after the truck stopped on N.M. 314. She was taken into custody a short time later.
While she was not arrested on the day of the incident, charges related to the incident are pending. NMSP will not identify the woman unless charges are filed.
At the time of the 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 an arrest.
Silver was not injured during the encounter, and has been with NMSP for five years and nine months. He was placed on standard administrative leave following the incident which is normal business practice.
Valencia County Sheriff Denise Vigil said the three deputies who fired their firearms at Baca — Salmons, Duran and Townsend — are still on paid administrative leave.
“It’s standard protocol for any deputy involved in a shooting to be on a three day off period,” Vigil said. “Normally, it doesn’t take this long, but due to the fact that two of the deputies were injured, it’s taking a little longer than normal.”
The state police investigation into the shooting of Baca is ongoing, Vigil said, and the agency has not determined which officer fired the fatal shot.
The sheriff said both injured deputies are recovering well.
“I want to thank the community for its support during this time. We are taking extra care of the deputies involved so they can return to duty with a healthy mind and body,” she said. “The unity shown by local law enforcement while assisting in this situation is greatly appreciated.
“The community can rest assured law enforcement will always be there to do the best we can to protect the citizens of Valencia County.”
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.