SANTA FE — A Santa Fe police officer and another driver were killed in a crash late Wednesday morning as officers pursued a kidnapping suspect who was speeding the wrong way on Interstate 25.
The officer was identified Wednesday evening as 43-year-old Robert Duran, a married father of two teenage boys.
Interim Police Chief Paul Joye said Duran joined the department in 2015, was a patrol officer and had served on the emergency response team.
He said Duran was “well-respected and loved by his peers.”
“I met with the family first today, then came back and was speaking with our officers. …,” Joye said. “This is going to take us a while to get through. We’re not a big department. We all know each other. We all love each other. This is devastating for all of us.”
Witnesses told investigators the suspect fled on foot following the crash. He was described as wearing a red shirt, black pants and a black jacket, and Joye said the department would release more information once it had been verified.
Officers closed the interstate and launched a manhunt that put nearby neighborhoods, businesses and a school on lockdown.
The woman police say the suspect kidnapped was taken to a hospital and her condition is unknown. Joye said police were still investigating that incident and whether the two knew each other.
The other driver who was killed had not been publicly identified.
In a statement, Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber said the community was “shocked and saddened by this tragic loss.”
“Tragically we have lost one of Santa Fe’s finest, a devoted police officer who gave his life in the line of duty and in service to this community. …,” Webber said. “This hurts. And we are all hurting together. We also remember the innocent civilian whose life was lost in this tragedy. To her family and friends, we send our thoughts and prayers.”
He added, “Let there be no doubt that the combined law enforcement officers who are now working on this will find the suspect. Justice will be done.”
‘It was terrifying’
The incident started around 11:06 a.m., when callers reported a man — armed with a knife — carjacked a woman and kidnapped her from the Rancho Vizcaya Apartments near St. Francis and Interstate 25.
Minutes later officers spotted the vehicle near Sawmill and St. Francis and tried to stop it. It sped away.
The suspect got onto I-25 heading northbound in the southbound lanes and then — between the Old Pecos Trail exit and the Eldorado exit — began driving southbound in the northbound lanes.
At mile marker 286, in the northbound lane, several vehicles — two Santa Fe patrol units, the fleeing vehicle and another vehicle — crashed.
Police did not say how the crash happened or how fast the vehicles were going.
“We’re still working through the crash itself and what led to the crash and how the crash occurred,” Joye said. “There’s still a lot to be worked out in this but we’re still pretty fresh in this incident.”
New Mexico State Police took over the search for the suspect, the investigation into the kidnapping and the crash. State Police and Santa Fe County Sheriff’s deputies will be handling calls for service for the Santa Fe Police Department on Thursday.
Jolene Duran, no relation to the officer, and her husband were driving northbound on the interstate from Santa Fe to Galisteo to go for a hike when a white sedan followed closely by police vehicles came hurtling toward them. She said with a semitruck in front of them and four or five Department of Transportation vehicles parked on the right shoulder, her husband had to swerve onto the left-hand shoulder.
“We were mostly … trying to figure out what just happened,” Duran said. “It was easy to figure out it was a police chase of course, there were police following them, but it was shocking. We ended up parking when we got to where we were going and sitting there for a few minutes to decompress and let out the shock that we were feeling.”
The couple took a short hike and then headed back home, getting stuck for two hours in traffic as they watched SWAT vehicles and ambulances pass by.
“It was terrifying,” Duran said. “We feel very lucky that we made it home today but we know that not everybody did.”
Meanwhile, police asked nearby residents to stay in their homes and the Santa Fe Waldorf School also went on lockdown, a school recording said.
Nearby businesses also reported being told to stay in lockdown.
A receptionist at the El Gancho Fitness Swim Club on Old Las Vegas Highway told the Journal that the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office called and told them to stay put.
“We are still on lockdown,” she said just before 3 p.m. In the club there are “a bunch of people, just sitting on their phones and talking, mingling.”
At Harry’s Roadhouse, on Old Las Vegas Highway, a manager said there was police activity “right across the street” and “lots of helicopters.”
“It was lunch so it was full,” she said. “I can’t hold people hostage so they ended up leaving when they figured they could get out.”
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham posted on Twitter that she was “deeply saddened by the death of a Santa Fe police officer today while in the line of duty, as well as the tragic death of another motorist.
“My prayers are with the loved ones of the victims and the Santa Fe community as a whole,” she said.
Department of Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Jason Bowie called the officer’s death “heartbreaking.”
“We have lost one of the state’s finest public servants, killed in the line of duty while protecting the citizens of Santa Fe and New Mexico,” he said in a statement. “It’s a sacrifice no one should have to make. The Department of Public Safety stands ready to assist. We mourn the innocent citizen and our colleague. We express our profound sympathy to the family and friends of both, and to the Santa Fe Police Department.”
Robert Duran’s death is the third death of an on-duty officer in the Santa Fe Police Department’s history, according to the department’s Officer Down Memorial Page.
The last SFPD officer killed on duty died in 1933.