ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Two officers who shot and killed a suspected kidnapper Friday afternoon have been identified by the Albuquerque Police Department as Cornel Heitzman and Carlos Hernandez.
The incident began about 3:30 p.m. when a man called 911 to report a man had a woman “in a headlock” and forced her into a black SUV near Robinson Park, at Eighth and Central NW, according to the 911 call released by APD.
Officers briefly stopped the man, later identified as Rafael Molina Jr., 33, several blocks away, police said, but he sped off and led them on a six-minute chase.
The woman was able to jump out of the moving car at Southern and Jesus SE, APD spokesman Tanner Tixier said in an email. Family members told the Journal that the woman was Molina’s girlfriend and that the couple had a child together.
Officers stopped the SUV at Edith and Garfield. Molina was armed with a handgun when he got out of the car and ran, Tixier said.
“Preliminary evidence reveals he pointed the gun at an Albuquerque police officer,” Tixier said. “Two officers discharged their firearms, striking Molina, who died on scene.”
Police don’t believe Molina fired his gun, Tixier said. APD has not disclosed how many times the officers fired or how many times Molina was hit.
Tixier released photographs of a handgun and a small folded knife that were found on the ground near Molina.
A third officer, Richard Lucero, pulled up to the scene seconds before Hernandez and Heitzman fired, capturing the immediate aftermath on his lapel camera. The footage starts with Lucero driving through the neighborhood following another police cruiser and the suspect.
Several shots rang out as Lucero arrived on the scene, but the officers are not in the camera’s view. The video doesn’t show Molina’s actions immediately before the shooting, and his body can be seen in the road near two police cars and the SUV.
Tixier said Hernandez and Heitzman had their lapel cameras running during the incident and footage hasn’t been released yet because police are still “reviewing it.”
Lucero, Heitzman and Hernandez were the only officers on scene when Molina was shot, Tixier said.
He said Hernandez and Heitzman have not been interviewed because the department’s attorney has been busy attending the James Boyd hearing this week. They are on administrative leave.
Heitzman is a 20-year veteran with the department who retired in late 2008 as a sergeant and was rehired in January 2009, Tixier said. Hernandez has been with the department since January 2007.