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Family: Man killed in exchange of gunfire with deputies was bipolar

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Crime scene tape remains near a field, owned by the Sandia Pueblo, where David Sanchez was shot and killed by BCSO deputies last week. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Two weeks before he was shot and killed by Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputies in a field behind his home, David Sanchez’s wife obtained a temporary restraining order against him.

In a petition for an order of protection from domestic abuse, Sanchez’s wife said she was not aware that he had any firearms, but “when under the influence, he is delusional, violent, and paranoid.” She asked that he be told to leave the home the couple shared with their two teenage children in an upscale gated community north of Alameda near Louisiana NE.

Then, on the afternoon of Aug. 24, someone reported that a man – later identified as 46-year-old Sanchez – was in the residential area, dressed all in black and armed with a “desert colored handgun.” The caller blocked nearby streets to traffic until deputies arrived.

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David Sanchez, 46, (Courtesy Antoinette Sanchez)

In a news conference Monday morning, Sheriff Manuel Gonzales said deputies responded to the scene – vacant, overgrown land owned by the Sandia Pueblo across from Florence and Palm Yucca NE – and contacted Sanchez a little after 4 p.m. They found his car nearby.

Gonzales said that’s when Sanchez began firing a gun, and one of the rounds was fired toward the home his wife lived in, which abuts the land. She wasn’t there at the time, BCSO said.

A timeline of events released by BCSO says Sanchez had taken “a position of advantage” and at one point was seen pointing the handgun at his own head.

“Several rounds were fired at our deputies,” Gonzales said. “At some point, our deputies fired back, striking Sanchez.”

Sanchez died. His handgun was found at the scene, BCSO says.

Detective Roger Garcia, who also spoke at the news conference, said that officials are still investigating how many shots were fired but that both deputies and Sanchez fired at least one round each.

The deputies who shot Sanchez were later identified as Anthony Szurek, who has been with BCSO for 7 years, 9 months, and Lorenzo Herrera, who has been with the Sheriff’s Office for 9 months. Neither has been involved in other shootings, and both have been cleared to return to work.

The shooting is being investigated by a multi-agency task force, which is standard. A BCSO spokeswoman said that investigators are still processing the deputy’s belt tape audio and that the recordings will be released after the case is turned over to the District Attorney’s Office.

The investigation was complicated by the location of the shooting, which was on land owned by the Sandia Pueblo in a checkerboard area of city and county property.

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Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales holds a press conference to provide additional information after deputies shot and killed a man last week. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

“Once we had a discussion with the pueblo government officials, they basically outlined to us that it was private property of theirs and we could do stateside investigations,” Gonzales said.

Around the same time, Sanchez’s older sister, Antoinette Sanchez, said she became worried about her brother because their mother had said he was very happy, but he had stopped returning text messages. She said he had bipolar disorder and had been working as a nurse at a local hospital, and then as a hospice nurse, until his condition worsened.

Antoinette Sanchez said she called law enforcement repeatedly the afternoon of Aug. 24 asking for a welfare check on her brother but was told that wasn’t possible because there was an investigation in the area. She said she had no idea her brother was involved until his wife told the family he had been killed. Antoinette Sanchez said she can’t believe he would have shot at the house where his children lived. She said he never would have put them in harm’s way.

“We didn’t have a chance to say goodbye,” Antoinette Sanchez said. “… That’s why I am so angry, everyone is angry with the sheriffs and police, and everyone. I understand they have to protect themselves because they have a family to go home to, but he had a family to go home to as well.”

In the week after the incident, a small memorial of flowers and photos appeared against a wall that separates the gated community from the field where Sanchez was shot.

Sanchez doesn’t have much of a criminal history in New Mexico, according to online court records, but he was charged with misdemeanor battery on a household member in 2014. The case was dismissed.

Gonzales referred to Sanchez’s “mental health history” and the petition for a restraining order filed by Sanchez’s wife describing him as angry, paranoid and unpredictable. She couldn’t be reached for comment, but in the petition, she wrote that in early August he had woken her up, appeared to suggest she was having an affair, and was armed with a baseball bat looking for a person. She said that she took their two kids, ages 14 and 16, to a nearby park around 3 in the morning and that they waited there for several hours.

The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office investigates after two deputies shot and killed a man in an exchange of gunfire last week. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

She said that when they returned home, Sanchez continued screaming at her, their children and her brother until the family members left and called the police. Later, she said, Sanchez’s therapist and others told her he was threatening to kill himself. She said there was a previous incident in which he checked himself into rehab.

Dispatch logs from the afternoon of the shooting show that BCSO called for a mobile crisis team – staffed by a deputy and a social worker – to respond to the scene as Sanchez fired shots. However, deputies returned fire a couple of minutes later.

“During this incident, the mobile crisis team was asked for via radio as far as the subject making suicidal comments,” detective Garcia said. “They were dispatched and arrived after the incident had taken place, so they did not make contact with the individual.”

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A makeshift memorial of flowers has popped up near where David Sanchez was shot and killed by Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputies last week. Sanchez’s sister said the photo is of him as a child. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

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