SANTA FE, N.M. — Two Santa Fe police officers apparently fired six shots at a man speeding away in an SUV in August after they had used patrol cars to try to hem him in at an Allsup’s parking lot on Cerrillos Road, according to State Police reports.
Documents about the shooting that injured Roberto Mendez, 25, were released to the Journal on Friday. They quote two women riding in the SUV as saying they urged Mendez to stop as he fled officers.
One of the women said she told Mendez, “What are you doing? We have Evan in the car,” referring to a 4-year-old boy who was also a passenger.
Mendez stopped the Ford Explorer a short distance from the Allsup’s after he was shot in the face by police. He survived.
The shooting took place after two officers, John DeBaca and Stephen Fonte, tried to block in the Explorer, which had been reported stolen earlier on the day of the shooting, Aug. 9.
The Explorer belonged to Mendez’s mother, and his sister had reported it stolen after her son told her that Mendez pushed him and took the keys, the State Police documents say. The sister told police that “Roberto had stolen many items from inside her home before and would trade (them) to feed his heroin addiction.”
The reports provided by to the Journal under a public records request do not include accounts directly quoting officers DeBaca and Fonte about the shooting.
But matching what State Police have said previously, the reports recount that, after Mendez backed into one officer’s patrol car, he drove forward out of the parking lot “almost striking the officers.” Fearing for their lives, the reports state, DeBaca and Fonte fired at the SUV.
Accounts in the State Police documents also say the SUV brushed Fonte and almost hit De Baca as it backed up, and that the officers shot at the vehicle as it headed toward the gas pumps.
Dash-cam video from the officers’ police cruisers that was previously released by the State Police shows the officers jumping out of the way as the Explorer backs up.
But it is not obvious from the video that the SUV presents a danger to the officers as it drives forward to leave the parking lot.
There are no audio recordings of the incident, because the two officers involved didn’t have time to activate their recorders, according to the State Police reports.
The reports released Friday say the officers were telling Mendez to get out of the vehicle before he backed up and then sped away.
The documents do not directly address whether DeBaca and Fonte knew there were four other people in the Explorer – the two women, the young boy and another man, Bryan Chavez – before they started shooting. But the documents do say the officers “found” or “discovered” the women and boy after the vehicle stopped.
Chavez was caught as he ran away from the Explorer near a smashed bottle of vodka, after the wounded Mendez stopped the SUV. The women in the car were yelling for him to stop driving away before he did so, according to the State Police reports.
Six bullet casings and two bullet fragments were found on the Allsup’s lot, the State Police reports indicate. The reports say that, after the shooting, De Baca was missing two cartridges from his gun and Fonte’s weapon was four cartridges down.
Mendez’s women passengers said the group in the SUV were “cruising around town” and looking to buy cigarettes before they were spotted by police. One of the women said Mendez and Chavez were drinking “and were drunk.”
When a search warrant was served on the SUV, police found items that included hypodermic needles, a rubber strap and a soda can that had suspected narcotic residue on it. The search did not turn up any weapons.
Information gathered by State Police has been turned over to the District Attorney’s Office, where it will be determined whether the shooting was justified or not.