SANTA FE, N.M. — Cop fires 8 shots at stolen vehicle
An Albuquerque man spent his 22nd birthday stealing a van full of U.S. mail and getting shot at by Taos Pueblo Police officers, according to a federal affidavit.
Dallas Chase Barth told Bureau of Indian Affairs agents following Wednesday’s incident that he took the van from an Española gas station while its driver, who does contract delivery work for the U.S. Postal Service, was paying for gasoline. Barth said the van’s engine was running and he thought he could drive it to either Wagon Mound or Albuquerque and then, somehow, return it.
Barth also told the agents that he was trying to stay sober and had not used methamphetamine in one week. He said he was sober when he took the van, according to the federal document.
Barth, who allegedly nearly hit some Indian children and then some pueblo officers who had parked their cruisers in the van’s path, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon. He’ll also face charges through the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office, which joined the chase at about 7 a.m. just north of Española along N.M. 68 all the way to its terminus in Taos Pueblo.
Sheriff’s spokesman Jake Arnold said Barth tried to force a deputy off the road near the Rio Grande Gorge north of Embudo. At another point, Arnold said State Police put down “speed sticks,” which could have stopped the van by damaging its tires. However, the van avoided them.
The charges through Rio Arriba will include assault with a deadly weapon against a law enforcement officer, fleeing a law enforcement officer and automobile theft.
“When the feds finish with him, we will be filing charges against him,” Arnold said.
Arnold said the chase at one point involved Rio Arriba deputies, Taos Police, Taos County deputies, State Police and Taos Pueblo officers.
When the van reached Taos Pueblo, it drove past a Bureau of Indian Affairs school and several people, including children, who had to jump out of the way, according to the affidavit. Two pueblo officers followed the van down a very narrow dirt road, which had a steep embankment to one side.
At a dead-end, the van made a U-turn and began heading toward the police at high speed.
The pueblo officers were outside of their parked vehicles. The van drove up the embankment, but slid into one of the cruisers, causing the officer to jump out of the way. The other officer thought that officer had been hit and that the van was going to hit him. He tried unsuccessfully to fire his gun, then retreated behind a cruiser to fix it. As the van passed, the officer fired eight shots. That officer thought the van “clipped” his feet as it drove past.
The van crashed into a ditch during an attempt to veer around a truck parked by another tribal officer. Barth then got out and tried to flee on foot before being caught by Taos deputies.
Barth told investigators that he was on “autopilot” during the chase, describing his state of mind as being “almost not there,” according to the affidavit. It states that Barth said he did not remember the children, nor did he remember being shot at by police.
The FBI has not released the name of the officer who fired the shots. Agency spokesman Frank Fisher said that’s because the case is still under investigation.