SANTA FE, N.M. — On Saturday, David Derringer called 911 to report that his horses had been stolen and he found them on a remote property on the Pajarito Mesa.
But when deputies arrived, they discovered 68-year-old Derringer had fired an AK-47 at the suspected thief, and it is unclear whether the horses had actually been stolen, so he was the one who landed in jail.
No one was injured in the shooting.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court, Derringer, a licensed horse breeder, lives in a trailer on an unmarked property deep into the Pajarito Mesa. He told detectives with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office that he owns several horses, but they are not marked or chipped or branded in any way.
“Derringer, along with not marking his horses, keeps them in an ‘open range’ in all of the Pajarito Mesa,” the detective wrote in the complaint. “In other words, these horses roam free all across the Pajarito Mesa with no way to identify who they belong to.”
Derringer said he has had “multiple altercations” with people stealing his horses over the past several years, including Isidro Ruiz, whom he had confronted about two months ago.
So he told detectives he hadn’t done anything wrong by firing at Ruiz when he spotted his horse on his property Saturday. Derringer said he cut Ruiz’s fence to let the horses free and then used his truck to corral the horses back to his property. That’s when Ruiz returned home and pulled in front of him, blocking his path, according to the complaint.
“Derringer told Ruiz that he already warned him about stealing his horses and retrieved an AK-47 from his truck,” the detective wrote in the complaint. “Derringer was approximately 20 feet from Ruiz’s vehicle and he fired two rounds at Ruiz’s vehicle.”
Derringer told detectives he shot out Ruiz’s tires so he could not chase him across the mesa and then left the area.
Ruiz had a different explanation for how his horses ended up inside his fence.
He told detectives he owns a couple of horses himself and had left the gate open to his property, prompting random horses to wander inside to drink from his watering hole. He said when Derringer’s horses showed up they didn’t have reins, a bridle, markings or any other signs of ownership, so he put the horses in the stable and left the property.
Deputies arrested Derringer and charged him with shooting at or from a motor vehicle and aggravated assault.