Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal
The suspect shot and killed by Albuquerque police Tuesday evening started the shootout when he fired at officers with an Old West-style revolver stolen earlier this week from a sheriff’s deputy’s home, according to police.
The suspect was also wearing body armor stolen in the same burglary.
Albuquerque police on Wednesday identified the suspect as John Edward Okeefe, 35, a convicted felon with narcotics and armed robbery charges out of Missouri and New Mexico dating back to 2000. Convicted felons are prohibited by law from having firearms and body armor.
APD spokesman Tanner Tixier said two police officers exchanged fire with Okeefe during a foot chase and they have been placed on administrative leave. The officers had not yet been interviewed about the shooting on Wednesday, and police didn’t release their names.
The gun Okeefe had was a Ruger Vaquero .45 Long Colt – a modern revolver with an Old West look. Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Sgt. Aaron Williamson said someone broke into a deputy’s home on Monday morning and stole the vest and three firearms, which were personal weapons the deputy doesn’t use on duty.
The deputy, a 16-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, was at work at the time of the burglary, Williamson said in an email Wednesday.
“It is unknown if his residence was targeted due to him being in law enforcement or if this was a random act,” Williamson said. “The other items taken have not been recovered and the investigation is ongoing.”
Tixier said it’s not known if Okeefe was the burglar.
After the officers shot Okeefe, they cut off his armor to render emergency aid. A Journal video taken a couple of hours later from a neighbor’s yard showed the vest and the gun near the body.
Police were called at 4:45 p.m. to the 2000 block of San Mateo NE on a report of two suspicious men, with possibly stolen property, on the north side of a business.
Responding officers arrived and spotted the two. One was quickly arrested, and Okeefe took off running, according to APD’s report of the events. During the foot chase, he fired at police, who took cover and didn’t return fire. He then started running east across San Mateo, and when he started shooting at officers again they returned fire, fatally wounding him, according to police.
Tixier said police are still determining how many shots Okeefe fired at officers and how many they fired in return. Witnesses told the Journal they heard as many as 14 shots during the shootout.
The other suspect arrested Tuesday was taken from the scene by ambulance and treated for dizziness and briefly questioned before being released, according to police. As of Wednesday night he had not been charged.
Only two weeks into 2015, Tuesday’s shooting was the third time shots were fired at an Albuquerque police officer this year.
On Jan. 3 a suspected drunken driver shot officer Lou Golson several times. He has been hospitalized since the shooting but is in stable condition. Golson returned fire but didn’t hit the suspect.
Meanwhile, it is the second time this year that APD has shot a person. On Jan. 9, Albuquerque police Lt. Greg Brachle shot Detective Jacob Grant, an undercover narcotics officer, during a drug bust that went wrong. Grant is still in critical but stable condition, and Tixier said his health is improving. Police haven’t released details about why Brachle fired his weapon.
About a dozen people gathered in front of Albuquerque police headquarters Wednesday afternoon. Danny Hernandez, one of the organizers, said people were protesting both the number of police shootings to start 2015 and a decision by city officials not to allow a prosecutor to attend a briefing on the police shooting Tuesday night.
Last year, the Department of Justice investigation into the police department found Albuquerque police officers too often used excessive force, including during shootings. A settlement agreement reached between city and DOJ that aims to address problems found during the investigation is waiting for a federal judge’s approval.
Journal staff writer Elise Kaplan contributed to this report.