State Police Lt. Robert McDonald said a driver told a Jicarilla Tribal Police officer during a traffic stop east of Dulce on Tuesday afternoon that the officer would have to shoot him.
What followed was a slow chase as the officer tailed Rex Michael Sherwood’s van along U.S. 64. It ended with Sherwood, 48, getting out of his van and blasting dozens of shots with an automatic weapon – said to be an AK-47.
Santa Fe District Attorney Angela “Spence” Pacheco said the warrant for the arrest of Sherwood, believed to be from New Hampshire, indicates that he fired about 40 shots at Jicarilla Police Chief Kendal Vicenti and Sgt. Kerwin Atole.
“It was pretty intense,” Pacheco said.
The officers took shelter behind their police cars, which were riddled with bullets, the DA said.
The officers returned fire. A third policeman, State Police Sgt. Gilbert Tafoya, came to the scene but couldn’t shoot because the Jicarilla officers were between Tafoya and the gunman, according to Pacheco.
Sherwood ran off into nearby hills still firing, Pacheco said.
The area where Sherwood was last seen is near the Monero community along U.S. 64 west of its intersection with U.S. 84, between Dulce and Chama, according to McDonald of the State Police.
As of Wednesday night, he remained the subject of a manhunt involving officers from various jurisdictions, including the FBI.
“We want to remind everybody that he’s armed and dangerous,” Pacheco said. “Nobody should try to stop him on their own. They should call police.”
As far as New Mexico authorities could determine Wednesday, Sherwood has no criminal record, Pacheco said.
Pacheco said Sherwood was wearing blue jeans, a T-shirt and a bullet-proof vest when he was pulled over near the intersection of U.S. 64 and Rio Arriba County Road 350. He was also seen wearing a blue jacket and a baseball cap.
She said officers reported that he was nervous and evasive, then drove off slowly before pulling over. He got the AK-47 off the floorboard and started the shootout. She said another AK-47 was found in the van after Sherwood got away.
No one was injured in the shooting, McDonald said.
Sherwood fled, on foot, into the mountains outside of Monero. McDonald said the area is very rural.
The search was joined by the FBI, State Police tactical teams and a search helicopter on Wednesday, McDonald said.
Pacheco said the license plate of the van Sherwood was driving is from New Hampshire and that his driver’s license gives an address in Pembroke, N.H.
An online phone and personal information database indicates that Sherwood has relatives in Colorado – the state line is just north of where Tuesday’s gun battle took place – but none of those listed could be reached for comment.
Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jake Arnold said Tuesday night that, before getting away, Sherwood told someone in the area that he wanted to die “in a hail of bullets” from police.
Journal Santa Fe/North editor Mark Oswald contributed to this story.