Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Deputy Robin Hopkins is a marathon runner, a mom and a veteran who once helped build a skate park for school kids to help keep them out of trouble.
But she found herself in the Intensive Care Unit at the University of New Mexico Hospital on Saturday with a serious leg wound after gunman Christopher Chase, 35, went on a shooting spree throughout Albuquerque on Saturday morning, leaving four law enforcement officers wounded.
A popular, well-regarded 15-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office who had patrolled the East Mountains, she was in critical condition Sunday evening.
BCSO and the Albuquerque Police Department held a news conference Sunday to discuss the shooting spree, which began when Chase told witnesses to call police and tell them he was waiting near Broadway and Iron, APD Chief Allen Banks said.
He then traveled north on Broadway in a stolen police car, shooting at officers multiple times with an assault rifle, including along Broadway at Coal, Avenida Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King Jr., and ended up in the North Valley. There, Hopkins, 45, was shot and moments later Chase was found dead at a Phillips gas station at Fourth and Montaño after he crashed and police fired at him, Banks said.
Banks would not say where in the pursuit each officer was shot, because the officers hadn’t been interviewed.
Sheriff Dan Houston said Hopkins was traveling north on Fourth toward Chase, who was traveling south, to intercept him when an APD officer saw four puffs of smoke from Chase’s assault rifle.
“She was shot by the offender in her vehicle,” Houston said during the news conference. “At the very, very least she has a long, hard road to recovery.”
Houston said Hopkins, a former Marine and member of the Air National Guard, went through two surgeries Saturday, and he communicated with her by writing. Houston said she was alert and gave him a grin and a thumbs up.
“She advised me that she feels very blessed, and that she will be back to work,” he said, choking up. “I told her that there was a tremendous outpouring from the law enforcement community and citizens. She’s a very strong officer.”
Three male APD officers also suffered injuries to their lower bodies, but Banks didn’t release their names, again because he said they needed to be interviewed. He said all the officers are expected to be OK – one is still in the hospital, one was released Saturday night and one later found shrapnel in his leg but wasn’t taken to the hospital, so had not been reported as being shot late Saturday night.
“I think we’re very blessed that the injuries were primarily sustained to our law enforcement officers (not civilians); it’s just unfortunate that any of our officers were hit,” he said. “I would call this a cowardly act.”
Banks released more details about the sprawling police chase that left four crime scenes and began at Broadway and Iron. Chase headed north on Broadway, west on Griegos, north on Rio Grande, east on Ranchitos and finally south on Fourth, where police said Chase shot Hopkins and where he eventually died.
Chase had “cop killer” tattooed on his body, and was wearing body armor and camouflage.
Banks said Chase was identified by fingerprints, and it is not clear if he was struck by any of the shots fired by officers. He said community members who witnessed or videotaped the event, or had damaged property, should call 242-2677.
The APD will lead the investigation with help from the Sheriff’s Office, State Police, the District Attorney’s Office, the Office of the Medical Investigator and federal agencies.
Banks said it looks like only Chase was involved.
It’s been a trying week for New Mexico law enforcement officers, as two other officers were shot at and wounded this week in other parts of the state, though none was injured as badly as Hopkins.
Barbara Johnstad, co-owner of Burger Boy, a restaurant frequented by Hopkins in the East Mountains, said Hopkins is a long-time friend.
“She’s gentle, she’s kind, she’s caring, she’s a good person,” Johnstad said. “I’m heartbroken; it saddens me greatly that she was hurt in the line of duty.”
Hundreds of well-wishers took to the sheriff’s deputies union page on Facebook to share their thoughts and prayers for Hopkins. They collectively described her as tough, passionate and very kind and recalled instances of good police work.
“Robin is one of the most kind-hearted, caring people I have ever met,” posted Natalie Roberts. “She always makes a point to come into dispatch and visit with us. She is an amazing mother and a strong deputy. She is a fighter and I know she will pull through this.”
A former student at the middle school where Hopkins was a resource officer also chimed in, saying the deputy was instrumental in keeping him in school.
“She use to catch me ditching in middle school and drive me back all the way to the front office,” posted Ricardo Pimentel. “She is awesome! Wish her a strong and quick recovery!”
Banks said more information will be released soon.
“I think in the next couple weeks, you’re going to hear stories of heroism,” he said.
Mayor Richard Berry said his prayers were with the families of the wounded officers.
“I think it’s a stark reminder yesterday of the dangers that the men and women in public safety face every day,” Berry said. “When they get up in the morning, like they did yesterday, it’s a day like any other day, and it ends a day like no other day. They stepped up to the challenge. They performed with valor. They’re heroes.”