A State Police search warrant affidavit provides new details of last week’s police shooting in which Santa Fe city officers wounded the driver of a stolen SUV that was carrying four passengers, including a young child.
Roberto Mendez, 25, the man who was shot in the face by Santa Fe officers, had stolen the vehicle from his mother, an officer’s search warrant affidavit states.
The police statement also says that Mendez nearly backed the stolen Ford Explorer into both of two officers who were trying to hem him in with their police cruisers on an Allsup’s parking lot, an action that provoked the officers to open fire.
When the Ford Explorer was searched, police found items that included several hypodermic needles, a rubber strap and part of a tooth. There was also a soda can that had suspected narcotic residue on it. The can is being tested at a laboratory. The search did not turn up any weapons.
Mendez is expected to recover from the Aug. 9 shooting. His passengers – a second man who ran from police, two women believed to be girlfriends of the two men in the SUV and a four-year-old boy believed to be a son of one of the women – were not injured.
The State Police are investigating the case because it involves Santa Fe city officers. Meanwhile, the SFPD is conducting a separate internal investigation.
Officer John DeBaca was scheduled to return to light duty this week and Stephen Fonte, the other officer on the scene, is scheduled to return Aug. 19.
According to the search warrant affidavit, Mendez’s mother reported the theft of the Ford Explorer the day of the shooting.
Fonte spotted the vehicle at the Allsup’s gas station at the intersection of Cerrillos Road and Calle La Resolana just before midnight.
The report states that Fonte pulled his cruiser in front of the Explorer, got out and ordered the driver to exit the SUV, but Mendez refused. DeBaca arrived next and parked his cruiser behind the Explorer.
Fonte approached the driver’s side door, but the warrant does not specify how close he came or whether he could see there were passengers with Mendez inside the vehicle.
Police Chief Ray Rael said the day of the shooting that he didn’t believe the officers were aware there were other people in the Explorer. Thursday, State Police Sgt. Emmanuel Gutierrez said investigators still had some interviews and other work to do to address that issue.
The warrant affidavit states that Mendez put the Explorer into reverse and backed up. The SUV “brushed” against Fonte and also went toward DeBaca, who was nearly hit, according to the report. The Explorer then backed into DeBaca’s police car. The report doesn’t indicate how fast the SUV was moving.
Both officers then fired at the Explorer, which went northeast onto Cerrillos before stopping nearby at Siler Road.
The other male passenger, Bryan Chavez, got out and fled into a parking lot on foot. He was caught by Fonte and DeBaca. Chavez was too intoxicated to be interviewed by police, the affidavit states.
Officers found Mendez sitting outside the SUV, holding his face, which was covered in blood. The other three occupants were still inside.