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Police Shootout Preceded Suicide

A SWAT call on 67th Street last week that ended with a 20-year-old fatally shooting himself featured a key detail that APD left out of its descriptions of the incident: an exchange of gunfire between police and the suspect.

Santiago Chavez fired at officers who “approached” a home where he had barricaded himself inside and veteran APD SWAT officer Drew Bader then fired an undetermined number of shots at Chavez, police spokeswoman Tasia Martinez said in an email response to Journal questions Monday.

A multi-agency team investigated the incident as an “in-custody death,” Martinez said, and determined Chavez shot himself.

“As for the number of shots that we fired, it is still being investigated,” her email said.

Authorities also are investigating the incident as an officer-involved shooting, she said. That’s standard for APD since late 2010, when the department received several recommendations on its use of force from a city-paid study by the Police Executive Research Forum. The study recommended that all on-duty weapons discharges be investigated and tracked as officer-involved shootings.

APD officials sent out at least three media advisories by email during the SWAT standoff on Wednesday. Only one of those was sent after the exchange of gunfire, but it did not say anything about the gunfight.

The Journal learned late Friday that police had traded shots with Chavez during the standoff and asked APD for a response on Monday.

“As for your question about the media briefings, there were no media briefings and no one had made any inquiries about specifics,” Martinez said in response to a Journal question about why no information was made public about the shootout.

Bader, who was involved in two fatal shootings in a four-month stretch in 2007 and 2008, was not placed on leave, Martinez said.

The 15-hour incident began around 9 a.m. Wednesday when police received a call that a man later identified as Chavez was throwing rocks at passing vehicles and knocking down trash cans, APD Sgt. Donovan Olvera said at the time.

When a nearby resident approached Chavez, he brandished a gun, though he never pointed it at the resident, Olvera said. Officers arrived on scene and Chavez barricaded himself inside a home on the 400 block of 67th.

Around 5:30 p.m., Martinez said, SWAT officers approached the home. Chavez fired at officers, and Bader returned fire but missed.

“Negotiation tactics then continued in attempt to get the subject to exit safely and peacefully,” her email said. “It was several hours later (shortly after midnight) after numerous attempts to negotiate with the subject that he committed suicide.”

Also during the standoff, Chavez “vandalized” APD’s robot, which has a mounted camera and is often used during tactical situations. The robot had been sent into the home.

As the event unfolded, APD officials provided several updates — mostly to say it had crisis negotiators on scene.

APD officers have fatally shot four men this year. Since 2010, the department’s officers have shot 24 men, 17 of them fatally.

  • More articles on Albuquerque police shootings here.

— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal