The Santa Fe County deputy charged with shooting and killing a fellow officer Monday night at a Las Cruces hotel was on the phone with his girlfriend shortly before shots were fired, court documents say.
The documents state that the girlfriend heard someone say “Please, don’t, please don’t” and then she heard shots.
It’s not yet clear what kind of an argument led Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Deputy Tai Chan to allegedly shoot fellow Santa Fe County Deputy Jeremy Martin at the Hotel Encanto, following an argument that started while the two deputies were drinking at a pub. The two were staying in Las Cruces on their way back to Santa Fe after transporting a prisoner to Arizona. Chan faces an open count of murder.
While being transported to the police station after the shooting, Chan said “I shot the guy” and that Martin was his friend, the court documents made available today state. He also wanted someone to check on his girlfriend Leah Tafoya.
“I’m not sure we know what led to it,” said Las Cruces police spokesman Danny Trujillo said of the slaying. The criminal complaint against Chan does not mention a reason for the argument, said Trujillo.
The documents state that Chan called a friend to meet him and Martin at a bar and when the friend arrived the deputies were already drinking. The friend said the deputies got into “a heated argument” and “were pointing fingers at each other.” The bartender had to separate them and the friend said he had never seen Chan “become hostile like that before.”
According to the criminal complaint, police went to the hotel after the shooting and found Martin at the elevators in the lobby “suffering from multiple gunshot wounds and bleeding profusely.” While searching the stairwell on the 7th floor, officers heard a man later identified as Chan say he had a gun. He was ordered to show his hands and surrender.
Chan allegedly shot Martin in the back and arms as he attempted to flee into an elevator, police said.
The officers found multiple bullet hole strikes on the walls of the 7th floor as well as multiple shell casings on that floor and in and near room 711, the room apparently occupied by the deputies. Officers noticed “a strong odor of intoxicating beverage” coming from Chan and that he was “slurring his words.” A Glock automatic weapon, believed to be Chan’s duty weapon, was recovered.
Chan, 27, is scheduled for his first court appearance at 1:30 p.m. today in Las Cruces Magistrate Court.
Chan and Martin, 29, arrived in in Las Cruces at about 4 p.m. Monday to spend the night before returning to Santa Fe.
Santa Fe attorney John Day, retained by the Chan family, said this morning that he had spoken with his client late Tuesday. “I’ve been able to talk to him but I don’t want to get into any details,” said Day. “The D.A. (district attorney) has asked for a no bond hold which is not unusual in these cases.” Day said he would leave any possible conditions of release up to the court.
“It’s just a remarkably sad situation for everybody involved … including the members of the sheriff’s office,” said Day. “He (Chan) has had a commendable run as a sheriff’s deputy. As sheriff (Robert) Garcia pointed out, he’s been a dependable member of the sheriff’s office.”
Chan, who was born and raised in Santa Fe, is divorced with no children. He and his Santa Fe girlfriend are expecting a baby due in May. Deputy Martin leaves his wife Sarah and three children aged 4, 9 and 11. They were teenage sweethearts and had been married for 12 years.
Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – It was the knock on the door that the family of any law enforcement officer dreads.
About 4 a.m. Tuesday, Santa Fe County Sheriff Robert Garcia went to Sarah Martin’s home to tell her that her husband, Deputy Jeremy Martin, had been shot and killed.
But in this case, the accused shooter was a fellow deputy.
“I think everyone is quite shocked,” Sarah Martin said later in a telephone interview.
The couple were teenage sweethearts and had been married 12 years, with three children ages 4, 9 and 11.
“He was overall a self-sacrificing kind of a person, he put everyone else first,” Martin said.
“He was a great dad, a great husband, a family guy – well grounded,” she added. “I am still kind of processing.” She told KOAT she’s pregnant with another child.
It was also a major shock to members of the entire sheriff’s department as they tried to fathom how one of their own could apparently take the life of a fellow officer.
Jeremy Martin was 29 and had been with the sheriff’s office for about 2½ years, since December 2011. His parents live in Santa Fe and his mother teaches at Capital High School.
Martin and Deputy Tai R. Chan, 27 – who was charged with an open count of murder Tuesday afternoon – had taken a prisoner to Safford, Ariz., and were returning through Las Cruces, where they rented a room at Hotel Encanto around 4 p.m. Monday.
That night they went to Dublin’s Street Pub, where Las Cruces police say the two started arguing. “It’s believed they consumed alcohol,” states a news release from the Las Cruces police.
The argument escalated when they returned to their seventh-floor hotel room. The police say Chan fired several rounds from a Glock semiautomatic gun – believed to be his duty weapon – at Martin, who was trying to escape by running to the elevator.
Officers found Martin bleeding heavily just outside the elevator in the lobby around 12:30 a.m. He’d suffered several gunshot wounds to his back and arms and was rushed to Mountain View Regional Medical Center in Las Cruces, where he was pronounced dead.
Las Cruces officers, after cordoning off the lobby, began searching the hotel for Chan, who was found in a stairwell near the roof of the hotel. Witnesses reported seeing Chan with a handgun on the seventh floor. The hotel was 80 percent occupied at the time.
Santa Fe attorney John Day said he had been retained by Chan’s family but couldn’t provide any details of the shooting. Chan is expected to make his first court appearance today in Magistrate Court.
Rayburn Thompson of Tennessee, who was staying at the Hotel Encanto on Monday night, tweeted repeatedly about the shooting shortly after it took place. “I was just awakened by about six gunshots and now my hotel is surrounded by cops,” he said in one tweet. In another, he wrote “we’re not allowed to leave our rooms … and I can see what appears to be all the hotel staff evacuated across the street.” He said the shooter had been “banging on doors claiming to be a cop” on the seventh floor, after the shooting.
But the Las Cruces Sun-News said other hotel guests said they were unaware of or slept through the commotion.
Sheriff’s office ‘shocked’
An emotional Garcia, flanked by a cadre of solemn deputies, held a news conference later Tuesday morning.
He said one of his commanders got a call from Las Cruces police and word of the incident was relayed to him by a commander at about 2 a.m.
“Excuse me if it takes me time to get through this,” Garcia told journalists in his opening comment.
“This has been a major shock to this agency and to my staff,” he said. He asked for prayers for the two deputies’ families.
“We have personnel here to assist as we grieve through this process,” Garcia added, “but we have a very strong law enforcement family here at the sheriff’s office, and I’m sure it will take a long time before we get over some of this.”
Martin was “a great deputy, a hard working deputy” who worked patrol, said Garcia. The sheriff didn’t identify Chan by name, but said the other deputy worked in investigations and was “also very hard working.” The Las Cruces police identified Chan as a warrant officer.
Asked if the two had a good working relationship, Garcia said, “Yes sir, nothing that would ever indicate that anything like this would ever happen.” He also said that there had not been disciplinary problems with Chan.
Chan was recently commended by the sheriff for returning a stolen safe and photos to a family whose home had been burglarized.
“Thank you for representing the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office in a professional, courteous and admirable manner,” Garcia wrote in a letter. Chan has been with the department about three years, said Garcia.
Two high-ranking deputies are expected to travel to Las Cruces today to meet police investigators there, said Garcia.
The sheriff’s office, off N.M. 14 south of Santa Fe, had a sign posted on the front door on Tuesday saying the office was closed. Santa Fe police said they were taking calls on Tuesday for the sheriff’s office.
Deputy Chan’s family could not be reached for comment Tuesday but his Facebook page indicates he attended Santa Fe High School and New Mexico State University. His father is a retired optometrist. He is the nephew of current County Commissioner Robert Anaya and former commissioner Mike Anaya, and the grandson of the late Joe M. Anaya, who served as a state highway commissioner.
Journal staffers Robert Browman, Nicole Perez and Jolie McCullough contributed to this report.