LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The New Mexico State Police received a call at about 8 a.m. on Feb. 27, to assist Border Patrol and Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office with a vehicle that bypassed the Border Patrol checkpoint by driving northbound in the southbound lanes of I-25.
Border Patrol initiated a pursuit on the vehicle and were quickly joined by Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office deputies. At around 8:04 a.m. the suspect vehicle stopped on the west shoulder of southbound I-25 around mile post 37. The suspect vehicle was occupied by three individuals, the male suspect driver, later identified as James Kirkland,39, of Kingman, AZ, his wife (victim) and their seven-year-old son.
Once the vehicle stopped, his wife immediately ran from the vehicle. James Kirkland then armed himself with a firearm and barricaded inside the vehicle, holding his son hostage. New Mexico State Police Officers arrived on scene and began negotiating with Kirkland to get him to peacefully surrender and release his son.
During the negotiations Kirkland made several statements toward officers indicating he was going to kill his son and then himself. He also placed his son between himself and officers.
During the standoff, NMSP Officer Robert Ramirez arrived and heard the other officers negotiating with Kirkland. Kirkland was standing on the other side of his vehicle. Officer Ramirez took cover on the passenger side of a Border Patrol unit. He reported the suspect was defiant and not cooperating with commands.
Officer Ramirez saw feet on the ground and determined they belonged to Kirkland. Officer Ramirez communicated via radio with a Border Patrol helicopter overhead who informed him the suspect had a rifle. Officer Ramirez then got into position and shot the suspect in the right foot. Other officers and deputies on scene immediately rushed in to remove the child from the scene and to secure and render aid to Kirkland.
The child was safely rescued, and Kirkland was airlifted to an area hospital where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries. The child, wife, and officers were uninjured.
After Kirkland was transported by EMS helicopter, and the child and mother were safe, State Police Investigations Bureau agents learned that Kirkland and his wife were under investigation by the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office for an incident that occurred in Louisiana. Agents learned the wife indicated to her employer that she had been kidnapped by Kirkland.
Her employer called Louisiana detectives who were able to trace her phone to north of Las Cruces, NM. New Mexico officers and deputies involved in the incident were unaware of the investigation and incident in Louisiana.
On February 28, 2019, Kirkland was booked into the Dona Ana County Detention Center on the following charges: kidnapping,·abuse of a child,·aggravated assault, aggravated fleeing a law enforcement officer, battery against a household member, interference with communications, reckless driving and careless driving. Kirkland could also face possible federal charges.
The child was placed in CYFD custody and the female victim received medical treatment for conditions not related to this incident.
Officer Robert Ramirez, assigned to the State Police Uniform Bureau, has been employed with the New Mexico State Police for 3 years 6 months of service. State Police Investigations Bureau agents continue to investigate this case with no additional information currently available.
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