Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
A week after Tito Pacheco turned 39, he was in the hospital, fighting for his life.
Within a month, he was gone – family members made the decision to take him off life support.
Now, 40-year-old David Barber faces a murder charge in connection with Pacheco’s death after police say he led officers on a citywide chase that ended when Barber plowed into Pacheco’s vehicle on Albuquerque’s West Side on June 20.
The indictment against Barber, filed in 2nd Judicial District Court on Dec. 5, alleges he “intentionally” caused the death of Pacheco while fleeing an officer.
“Under circumstances or in a manner dangerous to human life,” the indictment reads, “the defendant intended to kill or knew that his acts created a strong probability of death.”
Police say Barber fled a North Valley home in a stolen recreational vehicle when detectives showed up to arrest him on several felony warrants. This led to an hourslong police surveillance, and eventual chase, across the city that resulted in multiple crashes involving both police and civilian vehicles, including Pacheco’s.
Along with an open count of murder, Barber faces charges including aggravated fleeing of a law enforcement officer, three counts of aggravated battery upon a peace officer with a deadly weapon, receiving or transferring stolen motor vehicles, burglary of a vehicle, criminal damage to property and leaving the scene of an accident.
Barber’s attorney declined to comment, but his mother, Teresa Perez, said all she can do is pray for her son.
Perez said her son has a past tied to selling drugs and other illicit activity. Online court records show cases against Barber dating back to the early 2000s, with charges ranging from drug trafficking and burglary to identity theft and resisting arrest.
“I try to talk to him a hundred times over,” Perez said. “I told him, ‘You’re going to hit a brick wall one day,’ and this was a horrible one, because of Mr. Pacheco. … It just kills me.”
Although Perez called Pacheco’s death a tragedy, she said “I think the police could’ve done something different” in terms of handling the chase.
Jason Bowles, an attorney for Pacheco’s family, filed a lawsuit in August against the city claiming the Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT) maneuver used by police during the chase was “grossly negligent” and a violation of Pacheco’s civil rights.
A PIT maneuver is executed when an officer purposefully sideswipes a vehicle with the intent of stopping a chase.
Bowles said they had spoken with a variety of people who advised a PIT maneuver shouldn’t be done in high traffic areas. The PIT maneuver that ended this chase happened near Irving and Coors NW.
“It’s common sense because the car can go haywire and you can’t control where the car goes once you hit it,” he said, particularly with an RV. “It’s almost like steering a boat into a dock of people. It just makes no sense.”
The lawsuit claims police used the maneuver to stop the RV being driven by Barber, resulting in the crash that seriously injured Pacheco. He suffered six broken ribs, an injured spleen, a punctured lung, spine injures and a traumatic brain injury, according to the lawsuit.
As for Barber’s punishment, he said, that is up to the district attorney.
“The family wants justice to be done in multiple arenas, both civil and criminal,” Bowles said.
According to an obituary appearing online, Pacheco was a single father of three teenagers, grew up in Martineztown and became a carpenter who built numerous homes throughout the city.
“Tito will be missed greatly,” the obituary reads. “His words and lessons taught will never be forgotten, but imprinted in the hearts of those close to him.”
Perez said in letters from her son, Barber expresses disbelief.
“He tells me, ‘Mom, I never thought that would happen,'” she said. “They never think, ’till it’s done.”
Barber’s trial is scheduled for February 2019.