Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
A U.S. Marshals Service task force killed a man in a “shootout'”early Thursday after tracking him to the parking lot of a Southeast Albuquerque motel.
In an early morning news conference, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales said no members of the Southwest Investigative Fugitive Team, which is made up of marshals and BCSO deputies, were injured in the shooting.
Gonzales said the SWIFT task force had been seeking the suspect for a couple of days before finding him at the Motel 6 at 1000 Avenida Cesar Chavez SE, near Interstate 25.
“Shots were fired,” Gonzales said.
The suspect was pronounced dead around 12:40 a.m.
He has not been publicly identified, but authorities say he was wanted for armed robberies throughout the state and for probation violations.
Rick Martinez said he and his godson were moving their belongings from their car into a room at the Motel 6 when they saw a white car pull into the parking lot tailed by several marshal and deputy vehicles.
When the driver tried to get away, Martinez said, two trucks pinned the sedan against another car. Then, he said, the gunfire erupted.
“They didn’t warn nobody – just opened up on his (expletive),” Martinez said. “They were shooting from the back, from the side.”
At the news conference, Gonzales confirmed several deputies were involved in the shooting, but he didn’t know how many shots were fired by deputies or how many deputies fired their weapons.
BCSO spokesman Johann Jareno said deputies had been placed on administrative leave after the shooting, but he would not say how many.
Gonzales referred all further questions to the U.S. Marshals Service office.
In response to questions, Marshals Service spokesman Ben Segotta emailed a news release saying the suspect “engaged in a shootout” as the task force attempted to arrest him at the motel. He would not say whether any Marshals Service deputies had been placed on administrative leave.
Despite using the word “shootout,” Segotta would not say whether the suspect had a gun or fired at members of the task force. He said the suspect would not be identified until his family was notified of his death.
Martinez said he watched as at least six deputies and officers fired on the car with rifles and pistols. He said one of them stood within 10 feet of the car, shooting a rifle into the driver’s side.
“I think he emptied his clip,” he said. “His friend told him, ‘No, no, stop. What the hell’s wrong with you?'”
Martinez said he grabbed his godson and ran inside.
The gunfire continued as the two lay on the carpet of the motel room, and Martinez, a Vietnam veteran, said he could see the muzzle flashes against the window.
From start to finish, Martinez said, he believes well over 100 rounds were fired.
“I know the sound,” Martinez said. “Five shots I understand, but when you go over 100 … it’s too forceful, too excessive.”
Authorities have not disclosed many details, but a white sedan riddled with bullet holes and a shattered back window remained at the scene at the Motel 6 parking lot well into the day. Dozens of yellow evidence markers were placed to the side and rear of the sedan.
The U.S. Marshals’ statement said the shooting is being investigated by the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and the Metropolitan Shoot Team, which is made up of several departments, including the Albuquerque Police Department, the BCSO, the Rio Rancho Police Department and University of New Mexico police.
“As a matter of policy, the U.S. Marshals Service cannot comment on ongoing investigations,” the statement read.
Those assigned to the U.S. Marshals Service task force do not use lapel cameras and do not follow the same policies and protocols as local law enforcement agencies.
APD pulled a detective from the task force and discontinued assigning officers to it after a 2016 officer-involved shooting revealed policy differences between APD and the federal agency.
Throughout the morning Thursday, dozens of deputy vehicles packed the lanes of Avenida Cesar Chavez and spilled into the Motel 6 parking lot alongside a mobile crime lab while the BCSO investigated. Investigators could be seen walking along both levels of the motel and shining flashlights across the walls and ground.
Because Martinez could not leave his room until past noon, when the investigation was over, Motel 6 comped him into the weekend, he said.