SANTA FE, N.M. — Former Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Deputy Tai Chan will be allowed to return to Santa Fe from Las Cruces pending a trial on his murder charge for the shooting death of fellow deputy Jeremy Martin, a state District Court judge ruled Friday afternoon.
The decision permitting Chan to come home and stay under house arrest came over objections from Martin’s widow Sarah, who via telephone said “she was in fear for her family as Chan is a highly trained law enforcement agent,” Las Cruces District Attorney Mark D’Antonio said in a news release.
Martin’s mother Linda Martin told KRQE after the court hearing that she was disappointed that Chan will be back in Santa Fe.
“He gets to go home to the comfort of his mother and family members,” the mother said. “I’m sure Jeremy would like to come home.” She also said she’s worried about Chan having access to witnesses.
Chan’s Santa Fe attorney, John Day, said having Chan in Santa Fe is important as they prepare a defense. Chan has pleaded not guilty and his trial is scheduled for Sept. 28 in Las Cruces.
Chan is charged with an open count of murder in the October death of Martin, 29, the father of three who was shot four or five times from behind at the Hotel Encanto in Las Cruces.
The two deputies got into an argument after drinking at a bar before the shooting occurred at the hotel where they were staying during a prisoner-transport trip. An autopsy showed signs of a possible fight before Martin was shot to death.
Police have not said what Chan and Martin were arguing about, but KOAT, quoting unidentified sources, reported Friday the dispute was over an unspecified case.
Chan was arrested in a hotel stairwell and a handgun, believed to be his duty weapon, was recovered nearby. A police report said Chan acknowledged he shot Martin after Chan was taken into custody.
Chan previously had been free on a $600,000 bond without electronic monitoring but was prohibited from leaving Doña Ana County. In Santa Fe, he will be under house arrest with electronic ankle bracelet monitoring under terms set by District Judge Fernando Macias, said Day.
“What we were proposing is much more restrictive than what he (Chan) has now,” Day said. Chan will only be able to leave his residence for religious services or for medical reasons.
Prosecutor D’Antonio also opposed Chan’s return to Santa Fe and had previously supported an initial “no bond” hold on Chan that would have kept him in jail awaiting trial.
The conditions of release allow Chan to have contact with his pregnant girlfriend Leah Tafoya, who is a witness in the case, said D’Antonio.
Chan was on the telephone with Tafoya when shots were fired at the hotel, court documents state. Tafoya reportedly heard someone say, “Please don’t, please don’t” and then heard shots.
Chan is expected to return to Santa Fe next week after the judge sees a signed contract with the electronic monitoring service, said Day.