Police were still searching Tuesday night for a man who eluded capture following a lengthy SWAT standoff in the Northeast Heights the night before, which ended when an APD officer fired two shots at the stolen vehicle the man had fled in.
As it turns out, it was an “equipment malfunction” that led to 20-year-old Christopher Sosa’s escape, Police Chief Ray Schultz said during a news conference Tuesday.
As Sosa began to drive away from a home on the 2900 block of Shirley NE around 7 p.m., Schultz said, the APD SWAT team began to block his exit with their Bearcat armored vehicle. But the Bearcat broke down, the chief said, allowing Sosa to back out of the home’s garage and reach “high rates of speed” as he drove down the street.
APD officer Randal White was manning an “outer perimeter” at the scene and began moving people out of the street as Sosa drove toward them, Schultz said. White fired two shots, striking the vehicle but apparently not Sosa, who drove onto a sidewalk to get around a police car blocking the street.
APD officers in undercover vehicles had given chase from the residence, but they were hindered by the marked police cruiser, he said. Sosa sped off into the night, and detectives recovered the 2005 Toyota Camry hours later on Sandler NE near Menaul.
Witnesses saw Sosa several times throughout the day on Tuesday, police said. He did not appear to be injured.
White was placed on standard paid leave while a team of officers from several agencies, including APD, investigate the department’s seventh officer-involved shooting of 2012.
Schultz said he has directed the SWAT team’s commander to make sure that all of the unit’s equipment is functioning properly and to ensure that the team has backup plans for stopping fleeing suspects in the future.
Monday’s incident began around 3:15 p.m. when police received reports of a burglary in progress at a home on the 2900 block of Shirley NE, according to an email from APD spokeswoman Tasia Martinez. Officers arrived and learned from the resident that there was no burglary, but that Sosa was inside the home against the resident’s wishes. Sosa is wanted on a felony warrant for allegedly stealing a propane tank from in front of an area grocery store in October.
“Information was received that Sosa was known to be armed,” Martinez wrote in her email, and officers – including members of the SWAT team – began trying to get Sosa to come out of the home using PA announcements. He did not comply.
Around 7 p.m., the garage door opened, Martinez wrote. That’s when he sped away.
— This article appeared on page 19 of the Albuquerque Journal