Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Less than a week after the governor sent 50 additional New Mexico State Police officers to Albuquerque to help local police fight crime, two of those officers fired their weapons in separate incidents and are on administrative leave.
The officer-involved shootings occurred Thursday evening about an hour apart. No officers were injured in either shooting, but one officer hurt his shoulder when his vehicle collided with a civilian vehicle during a pursuit, according to State Police Chief Tim Johnson.
As for the suspects, one was shot in the shoulder, and police were still searching for others who escaped after the second shooting. It’s unknown if any of them were wounded.
“I do believe we’re making a difference here,” Johnson said during a news conference. “It’s unfortunate that we had these two incidents this evening, but it happened. We’re going to have a thorough investigation into both matters, and those details will be released once the investigation is resolved.”
The shootings were unrelated, but both started with attempted traffic stops in different areas of Albuquerque, one in the southwest part of the city and the other in the northeast.
Johnson said the first happened when an officer tried to pull over a stolen car around 6:15 p.m. near Central and Old Coors SW.
He said the vehicle fled from the officer, setting off a pursuit that ended in the area of Sunset Gardens and Corregidor SW, a block east of Old Coors.
“At some point our officer fired rounds at the driver of the vehicle,” Johnson said.
He said the driver, who was shot in the shoulder, was captured quickly, but two passengers fled and were caught within a half hour.
Johnson said the driver will face charges, but it’s unclear if the passengers will.
He would not say if the officer – who was brought in from Gallup – fired from inside his vehicle, what prompted him to shoot at the suspects, if the suspects fired at police or if they were armed at the time.
“I can’t get into that yet. We will get into that as the investigation unfolds,” he said. “We don’t typically give that information right out of the gate.”
Johnson said the second incident began around 7:40 p.m. when an officer – who was brought in from Farmington – tried to pull over a truck at Washington and Central NE.
“We’re still trying to figure out why he came in contact with this vehicle, but it appears to be some sort of traffic stop,” he said.
Johnson said the truck fled and the officer attempted a PIT maneuver, before firing at the suspect.
He said they didn’t know if the officer was inside his vehicle when he fired and had “no way of knowing” if a suspect shot at the officer.
Johnson said after the shots rang out the suspect was able to keep driving to Lomas and Washington NE, and made it through the intersection.
“Our officer did not make it through the intersection,” he said. “He’s going to be fine but still hurt.”
Johnson said the officer’s vehicle collided with a civilian vehicle. The civilian was uninjured but the officer was taken to a hospital with a shoulder injury.
“That’s the extent of what we have right now, no identification on the suspects. … We are still currently looking for the suspect vehicle,” he said. “Hopefully we will have that this evening and narrow down who this might be.”
Johnson said both officers were working the Metro Surge Operation, which kicked off last week when Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham assigned an additional 50 State Police officers from across the state to work along Central.
The additional resources were announced days after a 23-year-old University of New Mexico baseball player was shot and killed outside a club in the heart of Nob Hill – making him the 26th person slain in Albuquerque this year.
“The city of Albuquerque was asking for some help,” Johnson said. “We stepped up, sent 50 officers to the metro area to assist (the Albuquerque Police Department) and, frankly, to assist the citizens of Albuquerque with a violent crime spree that had been going on.”
He noted that State Police officers “have been out from 1 (p.m.) to 3 (a.m.) every morning doing the best they can in a city they are not too familiar with. They’ve been working as hard as they can.”