A high-speed police pursuit beginning in Los Lunas Wednesday afternoon ended 10 miles south in Belen after two police cars were wrecked and a gun was discharged.
The chase began when the Los Lunas Police Department received a call about an attempted auto burglary at Smith’s grocery store. Valencia County Lt. Gary Hall said when officers arrived at the store, the suspects in a small white car fled the area.
“Los Lunas officers pursued the suspects and notified us when they reached the Manzano Expressway,” Hall said. “Los Lunas canceled their units and followed behind. While Deputy Simon Martinez was trying to stop the vehicle, the driver scoots over and hits the unit.”
Shortly after deputy’s unit was hit, other officers laid down spike belts across the road to help slow down the vehicle. Hall said the driver of the white car avoided the spike belts and continued his attempts elude officers.
The pursuit proceeded through the backroads of Valencia County until they reached NM 47 and River Road where several Belen police officers were waiting to help stop the vehicle.
At this point, all the officers involved were notified that the vehicle they were chasing had been reported stolen the day before, Hall said.
Belen Police Officer Alfred Turietta took the lead in the pursuit and followed the car west on River Road. The chase continued as the driver of the reportedly stolen car turned right on Wisconsin.
Leroy Baca, a resident on Wisconsin, said he witnessed the chase as it drove by his house.
“I was outside when I saw this white car going really fast down the road and a police car was chasing him,” Baca said. “I saw the white car turn east on Aragon and that’s when the wreck happened.”
According to the witness, Turietta also turned when he was hit by an oncoming red Ford Escort. “It looked like the driver in the red car didn’t see the police coming and hit him,” Baca said. “The car hit the side of the police car, causing it to spin and that’s when it landed in the irrigation ditch.”
Baca ran to the police unit to make sure the officer was all right. When he arrived to the scene, he saw Turietta trying to get out of the passenger side door.
Neither Turietta nor the driver of the red car was injured.
The police pursuit continued as Martinez chased the white car west down Aragon, Hall said. The chase ended a few seconds later as the driver lost control of the vehicle when he tried to turn right on Garcia Road.
“He lost control and hit a PNM power pole and the dumpster behind Circle K,” Hall said. “When everything came to a stop, Deputy Martinez got out of his vehicle with his gun drawn at the low ready position.”
The deputy reportedly approached the vehicle on the driver’s side. Police charge that 48-year-old Barbara Ramirez of Belen got out of the back seat and reached for Martinez’s weapon. Hall said when Ramirez allegedly grabbed the weapon, a bullet discharged hitting the right door window.
“The deputy immediately took measures by restraining the woman,” Hall said. “The woman never had sole control of the weapon. Deputy Martinez never let go of his gun.”
Rameriz has been charged with numerous counts including attempting to disarm a police officer, six counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and shoplifting. She was also arrested on two municipal warrants and on a magistrate warrant.
The youth who is alleged to be the driver of the vehicle, Pete Leyba, 17, of Los Lunas, is charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, aggravated assault and two counts of evading or eluding a police officer. Two other female juveniles were also in the car, but they were later released to the custody of their parents.
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.