Man injured in BCSO chase dies - Albuquerque Journal

Man injured in BCSO chase dies

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

An Albuquerque man injured in a crash with a stolen vehicle that was being chased by Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputies has died.

Robert Chavez, 66, who hadn’t left the hospital since the Aug. 6 multi-car crash, died Friday afternoon, Kay Lovato, his sister-in-law, said in an interview with the Journal.

She said deputies told Chavez’s family to refrain from talking to the media, which the sheriff’s office denies.

“We were told not to talk to the media,” Lovato said. “I said, ‘I don’t care,’ because I’m sick and tired of them chasing people.”

Chavez was tending to errands when the vehicle he was driving was struck by a car near Broadway and Avenida Cesar Chavez SE, Lovato said.

The crash, which happened around 9:30 a.m., involved at least three vehicles, including the one deputies were chasing. Ten people were hurt, and five were sent to the hospital, according to a prior news release from Albuquerque Fire Rescue.

Lovato said Chavez broke his back, shoulder, forearm, wrist, ribs and pelvis in the crash and also had other internal injuries.

She said since the crash his only means of communicating was blinking his eyes until he had a heart attack and died Friday afternoon.

Sam Bregman

The family plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit, their attorney Sam Bregman said.

Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales hasn’t returned phone calls or text messages asking about the crash, and he hasn’t explained why deputies got into a high-speed chase with a suspected stolen vehicle.

Deputy Johann Jareno, a spokesman for the agency, said BCSO is still investigating the pursuit. But he said investigators deny telling Chavez’s family not to discuss the crash with the media.

Oscar Contreras Zamarripa, 32, who was a passenger in the stolen vehicle, according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court, has been charged with conspiracy to receive or transfer a motor vehicle and tampering with evidence.

BCSO is not identifying the driver, but Jareno said he still in the hospital and being guarded by deputies.

Since Chavez’s death, BCSO said they are amending the charges to include homicide by vehicle.

The complaint said a deputy on a “proactive patrol” checked the license plate of a Hyundai Sonata near Coors and Iliff NW and the plate was reported stolen. Deputies in marked cars tried to pull over the vehicle, which led to a chase.

Prior to chasing the vehicle, deputies shot at it with a StarChase tracking device, which allows deputies to monitor a car’s path using GPS data, according to the complaint.

Gonzales has told local television stations that the device is intended to prevent some vehicle pursuits.

The number of vehicle chases involving Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputies has soared in the last year and a half, after the sheriff changed the office’s policies to give deputies more freedom to chase suspects in nonviolent crimes, according to prior Journal reports.

In 2016, deputies were involved in 11 vehicle pursuits, but last year the number of car chases jumped to 74, according to county statistics.

Bregman points to the increase and says he believes the policy is directly responsible for Chavez’s death.

“Granted, we’ve got people who do bad things, but this department exacerbates the problem by chasing someone in the middle of the day when they don’t have to,” Bregman said.

By comparison, Albuquerque police – an agency about twice as large as the sheriff’s office – was in 12 car chases in 2017.

Several current and former sheriff’s office officials have testified that they disagreed with Gonzales’ decision to change the pursuit policy.

In March, Bernalillo County commissioners passed a resolution calling for an outside agency to review sheriff’s office policies governing use of force and vehicle pursuits. The county has hired the Daigle Law Group, a Connecticut firm, to complete the review.

Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins sponsored the resolution that led to the review.

“The tragic death today of an innocent bystander highlights the risk of engaging in high speed pursuits and why we need to take a close look at current BCSO pursuit policies,” she said Friday. “I’ve expressed my concern about the sharp increase in pursuits over the last year and realize that any decision to engage in a vehicle chase has to balance the danger of the perpetrator’s actions against risk to the public. But public safety has to come first, and we have a duty to assess and look for best practices for the county.”

Journal Staff Writer Elise Kaplan and Matthew Reisen contributed to this report.

Home » News » Albuquerque News » Man injured in BCSO chase dies

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
Former Lobo Udeze shines in all-star game at Final ...
ABQnews Seeker
Former Lobo Morris Udeze was named ... Former Lobo Morris Udeze was named MVP of the College Basketball All-Star Game in his hometown of Houston on Friday.
Tuition bump? UNM administration seeks 3% tuition hike, 6% ...
ABQnews Seeker
Tuition and fees for in-state students ... Tuition and fees for in-state students would be $11,380 for one year
Fewer police officer positions, a goodbye to extra COVID ...
ABQnews Seeker
Mayor Tim Keller on Friday released ... Mayor Tim Keller on Friday released his plan for fiscal year 2024, which includes a slightly smaller budget after years of significant growth.
Photos: Grants High School baseball team beats St. Pius ...
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico Supreme Court blocks ordinances restricting access to ...
ABQnews Seeker
Five Eastern New Mexico jurisdictions had ... Five Eastern New Mexico jurisdictions had passed ordinances that activists call "de facto abortion bans."
Local hospitals are lifting their mask mandates
ABQnews Seeker
Presbyterian, UNMH, Christus St. Vincent and ... Presbyterian, UNMH, Christus St. Vincent and the Lovelace make joint announcement
In split ruling, Court of Appeals vacates former NM ...
ABQnews Seeker
Former New Mexico tax department head ... Former New Mexico tax department head Demesia Padilla's two felony convictions that stemmed from a lengthy public corruption investigation were vacated Friday by the ...
Albuquerque police officer resigns after allegation of 'inappropriate contact' ...
ABQnews Seeker
An Albuquerque police officer resigned on ... An Albuquerque police officer resigned on Friday after officials said he refused to cooperate in an investigation into allegations that he had inappropriate contact ...
Police release clearer photo of truck allegedly involved in ...
ABQnews Seeker
Crime Stoppers have released a clear ... Crime Stoppers have released a clear photo of a pickup truck believed to be involved in the homicide of a motorcyclist earlier this month ...