LAS CRUCES – Facing misdemeanor charges related to an early-morning crash on Interstate 25, a longtime Las Cruces police officer has resigned.
Michael Clifton, 30, resigned Friday, Las Cruces Police Department spokesman Dan Trujillo said Monday. Clifton’s resignation came a week after a hit-and-run crash involving his personal pickup truck, according to documents filed in Magistrate Court.
New Mexico State Police, the agency investigating the crash, has filed misdemeanor charges against Clifton – careless driving, leaving a crash scene, failure to give notice of a crash and failure to give a written report related to the crash.
He’s also facing evidence tampering charges, which in this case is classified as a petty misdemeanor.
Authorities don’t mention drunken driving in the court filings, but Clifton reportedly told a State Police officer he had been drinking at the El Patio bar in Mesilla on March 13, the night before the crash, and was “smashed,” according to court documents. Clifton reportedly told a State Police officer that he gave the keys to his 1970 Ford pickup to a woman he didn’t know so she could drive because he was too drunk to get behind the wheel, court documents state.
The only thing Clifton remembered after that, he told police, was waking up at the home of friends the following morning. But Clifton reportedly told a friend that he woke up in his truck, which had knocked down a road sign along Interstate 25, then walked to his friends’ home, according to court documents.
State Police officers first encountered Clifton’s truck at a local tow yard about 11 a.m. on March 14. LCPD officials had called State Police after finding out the truck registered to Clifton had been in a crash. At the tow yard, State Police officers noticed what appeared to be blood drops and smears inside the truck.
The investigating officers spoke to Clifton about 4 p.m., noting that he had a cut and swelling on his lower lip – Clifton said he had been jumped outside the bar, according to court documents.
But by that time Clifton had retrieved the truck. When the State Police officers saw it again, the blood was gone, court records state.
Three days later, March 17, Clifton reportedly admitted to cleaning the blood, court documents state, because he wanted to maintain the truck’s new upholstery. That’s why police have levied evidence tampering charges.
When a State Police officer tried to ask more questions, Clifton said he needed to contact his attorney. The attorney, who is not identified in court documents, advised Clifton against making any further statements to police.
Four days later, Clifton resigned from LCPD.