Albuquerque police say a state employee left their work vehicle unlocked and running at the fairgrounds Monday morning before it was stolen by a man who ran a stop sign and crashed into an SUV, severely injuring a man and child.
John Bearden Jr., 37, is charged with leaving the scene of an accident, auto theft and two counts of great bodily harm by vehicle in connection with the crash.
The collision left the 43-year-old man with a brain bleed and the 10-year-old girl “unable to breathe on her own” with a brain bleed, broken leg and pelvis and internal injuries, according to court records.
Albuquerque Police Department spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said the girl was still in critical condition Tuesday.
It is unclear if the employee who left the state-owned vehicle running worked at Expo New Mexico and why the vehicle was left unlocked with the keys in the ignition.
An Expo New Mexico spokesperson did not respond to a call for comment Tuesday.
Every year, the Albuquerque Police Department sends out multiple warnings against leaving vehicles running unattended. In the first half of 2022, APD said 268 vehicles were reported stolen with the keys inside.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court:
Officers responded around 7:45 a.m. to the crash at San Pedro and Bell SE and found an unconscious man and girl trapped in the wreckage of an SUV, according to the complaint. Bearden fled from the state-owned vehicle and ran through backyards before hiding in a shed and being detained.
Police said the state employee who left the vehicle running also left their cellphone inside and was notified of “a possible crash” at the location where it was found. Bearden told police he was on the phone with “three different people” when he saw the unattended vehicle and they told him to steal it “and get out of the area.”
“Bearden also stated he currently relapsed on methamphetamine,” according to the complaint.
Police said Bearden told them he got disoriented after stealing the SUV because he couldn’t see the Sandia Mountains. He said he sped through neighborhoods before crashing.
Bearden reportedly refused to take a sobriety test but ground his teeth and couldn’t sit still, according to the complaint.
Bearden told police, “I don’t do drugs, drugs do me.”
Detectives got a search warrant to draw Bearden’s blood but the results were not detailed in the criminal complaint.