Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – The Santa Fe County deputy charged with shooting and killing a fellow officer early Tuesday morning at a Las Cruces hotel was on the phone with his girlfriend when shots were fired, court documents says.
The criminal complaint states that the woman heard someone say “Please, don’t, please don’t” and then she heard shots.
The accused shooter, Deputy Tai Chan, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in Las Cruces Magistrate Court on Wednesday afternoon, said his Santa Fe attorney John Day.
Chan is charged with an open count of murder in the death of fellow Deputy Jeremy Martin and is being held without bond.
The criminal complaint against Chan says he and Martin argued first at a bar, to the point they had to be separated, before they returned to the Hotel Encanto, where Martin suffered “multiple gunshot wounds.” Chan was slurring his words and smelled of alcohol when he was apprehended in a hotel stairwell about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.
The complaint says that while being transported to the police station, Chan said “I shot the guy” and that Martin was his friend. He also wanted someone to check on girlfriend Leah Tafoya, a probation and parole officer with the state Corrections Department in Santa Fe.
But defense attorney Day said, “It would wrong to jump to conclusions at this stage.”
“Our investigation at this stage is showing the facts are significantly different than what’s being released,” said Day. He said a witness who had seen a copy of the criminal complaint called Las Cruces police to say that it contained errors.
Nothing in the document specifies what Chan, 27, and Martin, 29, argued about. The deputies were staying in Las Cruces on their way back to Santa Fe after transporting a prisoner. They had left Santa Fe on Monday morning, according to the sheriff’s office, and delivered the prisoner to a prison in Safford, Ariz. They got to Las Cruces about 4 p.m., and were planning to spend the night before returning to Santa Fe.
The documents state that Chan called a longtime Las Cruces friend about 8 p.m. Monday “to go out and have some beers” and asked the friend to pick up him and Martin at the hotel.
According to the friend, Josh Sexauer, Chan didn’t want to drive the Ford Explorer that he and Martin had been traveling in “because it was a duty vehicle.” When Sexauer and another friend arrived at the hotel, “Chan and the other deputy had already been drinking.” The foursome went to Dublin’s Street Pub and Chan and Martin continued to drink.
Sexauer said the deputies got into “a heated argument” and “were pointing fingers at each other.” He had never seen Chan “become hostile like that before and the bartender had to separate them at one point,” Sexauer is quoted as saying.
Sexauer decided to leave the pub and Chan said the deputies would take a taxi back to the hotel. At about 12:31 a.m., Sexauer got a call from Chan’s girlfriend Tafoya saying she had just gotten off the phone with Chan after hearing the sound of gunshots. Tafoya wanted Sexauer “to check and make sure Chan was OK.”
While he was driving to the hotel, Sexauer said he heard on a cellphone app that “that a gunshot victim had been taken to Mountain View Regional Medical Center.”
Police went to the hotel and found Martin at the elevators in the lobby “suffering from multiple gunshot wounds and bleeding profusely,” the complaint states. Police have said Chan allegedly shot Martin in the back and arms on the seventh floor as he attempted to flee via the elevator.
Recording of 911 calls from the hotel released Wednesday indicate that a security officer reported that a man who’d been shot managed to make it to the lobby on the second floor and that the shooter was probably still on the seventh. “His friend shot him or something, I don’t know,” the guard says.
A hotel guest from the seventh floor reported that a man in the hallway with a gun is going up and down the hallway pounding on room doors, saying “sheriff’s office, please open the door,” and that “it’s an emergency.” The caller asks, “That’s unlikely to be legit, right?”
While searching the stairwell on the seventh floor, responding officers heard a man later identified as Chan say he had a gun. He was ordered to show his hands and surrender. A Glock automatic weapon, believed to be Chan’s duty weapon, was recovered nearby. An officer saw a handgun holster in the Ford Explorer that did not have a weapon in it.
Officers found multiple bullet hole strikes on the walls of the seventh floor as well as multiple shell casings on that floor and in and near room 711, the room apparently occupied by the deputies. Officers also found blood stains near the elevators on the lobby and seventh floor and inside room 711.
Tafoya, Chan’s girlfriend, works as a probation and parole officer with the state Corrections Department in Santa Fe. KOAT reported that she was in the courtroom in Las Cruces on Wednesday.
Chan and his girlfriend are expecting a baby due in May, said defense attorney Day.
Tafoya also is a member of the Santa Fe County DWI Planning Council. The council’s website says, “She brings (a) unique perspective to the DWI Planning Council because of her experience as a Probation & Parole Officer. She sees firsthand how alcohol and alcohol abuse causes pain and misery in life.”
Day spoke with Chan late Tuesday. “I’ve been able to talk to him, but I don’t want to get into any details,” said Day. “It’s just a remarkably sad situation for everybody involved … including the members of the sheriff’s office.”
Corporal James Yeager, president of the Santa Fe County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, who is helping the Martin family make service arrangements, knew both deputies. “I considered them to be friends” with one another, said Yeager. He said Martin was “very dependable, very likable, very responsible.”
Like others in the department, he was stunned by the shooting. “It’s just really hit not only the department but the family and other law enforcement agencies,” he said. “Even down to the tow service guys. He was very well liked by everybody.”
Chan, who was born and raised in Santa Fe, is divorced with no children and part of a well-known extended family. His father Roy Chan is a retired optometrist, he’s the nephew of County Commissioner Robert Anaya and former commissioner Mike Anaya and is the grandson of the late Joe M. Anaya, who served on the state Highway Commission.
Deputy Martin leaves his pregnant wife, Sarah, and three children aged 4, 9 and 11. They were teenage sweethearts, moved to Santa Fe from Arizona and had been married for 12 years. A convoy of deputies and other law enforcement personnel escorted a vehicle delivering his body back to Santa Fe via Interstate 25 on Wednesday evening.