SANTA FE – A man with a long criminal record who led police on a chase on Interstate 25 died early Tuesday amid what the State Police say was an exchange of gunfire between officers and the driver, after his truck had been disabled near the Cerrillos Road exit here.
The same man – Marvin Maestas, 30, of Mora – had been fired upon by police earlier this month, on Aug. 7, when he nearly hit a city officer in Las Vegas, N.M., with a car, struck the officer’s patrol car and drove away. He was wanted as a suspect in a July drive-by shooting in downtown Las Vegas in which no one was injured but two vehicles were hit.
Tuesday’s officer-involved shooting in Santa Fe took place around 2 a.m. near Dinosaur Trail, just off I-25, according to New Mexico State Police Sgt. Elizabeth Armijo.
Armijo said Maestas fired at police before he was shot and killed. “There were shots exchanged from the suspect and from officers,” she said. “There was a firearm found in his immediate possession.”
Lt. Andrea Dobyns of the Santa Fe Police Department said two Santa Fe officers were placed on three-day paid leave, standard practice for officers after an officer-involved shooting.
But there was no confirmation that any shots the Santa Fe officers may have fired killed Maestas. Officers from four law enforcement agencies were on the scene, and none was injured.
Two female passengers were also in the truck. They were detained by police, interviewed and released. No charges had been filed against them.
The events leading to the shooting started when a Sandoval County deputy tried to pull over a red pickup speeding about 90 mph south of Bernalillo, and the driver kept going. State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said the driver later identified as Maestas at times went the wrong way into the southbound lanes of traffic at speeds in excess of 100 mph. He also was able to avoid police spike strips.
The pursuit continued toward Santa Fe, and Maestas pulled off at Waldo Canyon exit 267 south of the city. Armijo said Maestas got back onto the highway and was driving north in the southbound lanes.
State Police and Santa Fe city and county officers were made aware of the pursuit. Spike strips deployed by SFPD were used to stop the truck after it pulled off on Cerrillos Road.
The State Police said Maestas got out and ran toward nearby Dinosaur Trail or Old Dinosaur Trail. A State Police statement issued late Tuesday said Maestas “brandished a firearm” as officers chased him on foot and then he and the officers exchanged shots. Maestas was in a field when he was hit.
An autopsy should reveal how many shots hit him and from what direction they came, Armijo said, adding that investigators don’t know how many officers from the various agencies fired their weapons or how many shots were fired. She said interviews with the officers involved will take place when they get back from leave.
How long an officer spends on leave is up to individual law enforcement agencies, Armijo said. The State Police won’t release details about the shooting until after the interviews are conducted so the investigation isn’t “tainted,” Armijo said, possibly in about a week.
Maestas’ record includes a pending case on marijuana possession and felon in possession of a firearm charges, and past charges for DWI, domestic violence and drug possession.
Spokesmen for the Sandoval and Santa Fe county sheriff’s offices said they were unaware of any deputies from those agencies being placed on leave as of Tuesday afternoon.
Lt. Keith Elder, a spokesman for the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office, which initiated the pursuit, said the office’s policy on high-speed chases is on “a case-by-case basis.”
“We use whatever works best in safely ending the pursuit,” he said
Armijo said State Police officers were not authorized to join Tuesday morning’s pursuit, but they were authorized to deploy spike strips. Department policy puts a two-vehicle limit on pursuits, and how officers pursue a suspect depends on certain conditions.
“We absolutely have to consider traffic, conditions and the area, whether it’s rural or urban,” Armijo said. “There was not a whole lot of traffic. It’s going to be a whole lot different at 1:30 in the morning than 1:30 in the afternoon.”
Some roads remained closed around the I-25/Cerrillos Road intersection into Tuesday afternoon.