State Police arrest suspects in shooting of officer in East Mountains - Albuquerque Journal

State Police arrest suspects in shooting of officer in East Mountains

Caleb Elledge (MDC)
Alanna Martinez (MDC)

Authorities have arrested the couple allegedly involved in a shootout that left a New Mexico State Police lieutenant injured Friday morning near Sedillo Hill.

State Police Chief Tim Johnson said the alleged shooter, Caleb Elledge, 24, and his girlfriend Alanna Martinez, 22, were arrested Saturday after being tracked to a home in McIntosh in Torrance County.

He said during a news conference Saturday evening that at least three guns were recovered and three other men were arrested by State Police on various charges, unrelated to the shooting, during the investigation.

Johnson said he hopes one of the guns seized during the investigation was the one used in the shooting “to make this case bulletproof.”

He said the injured lieutenant — identified by the initials “JV” in court records — left the hospital on Saturday and returned home to his family.

“I’m certain, upon arrival today from the hospital back to his home, that kiss to his wife and kids felt very much differently than it did yesterday morning,” Johnson said.

Court records state the lieutenant had been shot in the left side of his neck.

Elledge is charged with aggravated battery against a peace officer resulting in great bodily harm, tampering with evidence, possession of a firearm by a felon and criminal damage to property. Martinez is charged with harboring or aiding a felon.

As he was being arrested, Elledge told State Police “he was sorry he shot the officer,” according to court records. Martinez told police Elledge’s aunt picked them up after the shooting and brought them to her house in McIntosh.

Elledge, who is from Los Lunas, has a history of arrests on charges that range from child abuse and drug possession to shooting at or from a motor vehicle. At the time of the shooting, Elledge had been on the run for several months. Court documents state that he was on probation and cut off his ankle monitor.

It is unclear if he has an attorney and his family could not be reached for comment.

During the news conference, Jason Bowie, secretary of the state Department of Public Safety, criticized lawmakers who, he contends, “don’t seem to have an appetite for meaningful change” and have pushed back against crime bills moving through the Legislature.

Some of the tough-on-crime legislation pushed by the governor have met resistance at the Roundhouse, such as a measure to make it easier to hold some defendants in jail while awaiting trial for certain crimes.

Bowie urged lawmakers to find common ground to address violent crime.

Hours later, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a statement praising the state House for its bipartisan support of House Bill 68, which, among other things, strengthens penalties for violent gun crime offenders.

“The importance of this legislation was, unfortunately, highlighted just this week with the shooting of a New Mexico State Police officer by an individual illegally in possession of a firearm,” she said in the statement.

In Friday’s shooting, police said the lieutenant was called around 8:15 a.m. to an Edgewood gas station after a woman was reported doing drugs in the bathroom. The lieutenant found Martinez in a car with Elledge, the driver, and he rammed the police vehicle before fleeing.

Police said the lieutenant gave chase and used a PIT maneuver to stop the car near Sedillo Hill on N.M. 333. At that point, Elledge shot at the lieutenant, striking him, before he returned fire and the couple fled, police said.

On Friday, Johnson said they tracked the car’s registration to a couple along Central. The man, Manuel Torrez, 41, was booked on an unrelated warrant and the woman was let go after authorities determined they weren’t involved in the shooting.

He said a photo of Martinez shared Friday evening resulted in a tip that led State Police to a home in McIntosh. They stopped at least two vehicles that left the home Saturday morning.

One driver, Matthew Mitchem, 46, was arrested after he was found with a stolen gun, police said. Another driver, Daniel Brannock, 35, fled from police in a stolen Ford F-250 truck until he reached Albuquerque, where he crashed into two vehicles near East Central and was found with a gun and methamphetamine, according to police.

“The F-250 was stolen, I’m sure we’re all surprised. He, too, had a firearm, I’m sure we’re all surprised, and he’s a felon, there’s another shocker for you,” Johnson said. “That’s not even the two people we’re looking for.”

He said around that time, State Police went up to the home and found Elledge and Martinez inside.

Elledge told police he initially fled from the lieutenant because he “didn’t want to go back to prison” and he fired at least eight rounds at the lieutenant, according to court records. He said he felt a bullet hit him in the “lip and face” and fled, using a stranger’s phone to call someone for a ride.

Court records show Martinez told police they called Elledge’s aunt, who initially refused to help them, but who she says later picked them up.

Johnson said they are still looking for people who may have helped them flee the area Friday morning.

“We will find every single one of them and they can expect a knock on their door from the State Police,” he said.

In April 2020, Elledge, known as “Creeper,” was sentenced to a year in Bernalillo County jail and five years of probation after pleading guilty to shooting at or from a motor vehicle and conspiracy charges. The charges stemmed from a few consolidated cases, most notably a 2019 incident in which Elledge fired a gun out of a stolen SUV as he fled from University of New Mexico police officers.

An arrest warrant was issued for Elledge in April 2021 after he cut his ankle bracelet off the same day he had the straps adjusted by probation officers in Los Lunas, according to court records.

A probation officer wrote that, at the time, Elledge had been on probation for nine months and had already absconded three times and violated multiple conditions of his supervision.

“Elledge is clearly using the opportunity afforded to him (by) the court as a conduit to his criminal behavior, and had demonstrated that he is in no way a good candidate for even the highest level of supervision,” the officer wrote.

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