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Off-duty Cuba officer charged in fatal wreck

Brandon Barber (MDC)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

An off-duty officer with the Cuba Police Department is accused of driving drunk and the wrong way on Interstate 25, causing a head-on crash early Saturday that killed two people and left another hospitalized.

Brandon Barber, 29, is charged with three counts of homicide by vehicle, aggravated DWI and an open container violation, according to court records. He is facing a third homicide charge due to the severity of the hospitalized person’s injuries. Barber was booked in to the Metropolitan Detention Center on Saturday morning.

Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Jayme Fuller confirmed Barber is a police officer in Cuba. The names or other information about the victims were not released.

“First and foremost, our condolences go out to the families of the horrific tragedy,” Cuba Police Chief Manuel Romero said in a statement. “Unfortunately, an off-duty officer made a poor personal decision.”

Romero said Barber, a probationary officer, is on administrative leave “pending an internal investigation.”

“At the moment, I am gathering more facts and information on this incident,” he said. “More information will be released once it is available to me pending the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department investigation.”

Felix Muñez, Barber’s stepfather, said the family did not want to comment on the case.

“Our prayers and thoughts go out to the ones that lost their lives,” he said. “It is a sad situation when it comes to something like this. … Nobody wins in this situation.”

According to the criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court:

Deputies responded to the fatal crash on southbound I-25, north of Tramway, around 2 a.m. They discovered Barber was in a Ford truck headed north in the southbound lanes, and speeding, when he crashed into a GMC Yukon sport utility vehicle carrying three men.

Two of the men were pronounced dead at the scene. The third was taken to a hospital with a brain bleed and lacerated internal organs.

Deputies found Barber walking around, and he “seemed confused or disoriented.”

Barber smelled of alcohol, and deputies found a half-empty bottle of brown liquor on the floor of his truck. Deputies began to give Barber sobriety tests at the scene, but he stopped midway through the tests and asked to be taken to the hospital, telling a deputy to “test him later.”

At the hospital, deputies had Barber’s blood drawn to test for alcohol.

Court records show Barber was arrested for DWI in 2016 after Albuquerque police found him asleep behind the wheel of a truck in traffic on Unser near Central. Barber, who smelled of alcohol, kept interrupting the officer giving him sobriety tests before he walked away and urinated in public, according to court records.

Barber pleaded guilty to DWI and was sentenced to complete the DWI First Offender Program.

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