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Carjacking suspect shot at by officer gives SWAT team the slip

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Kat Ramos heard it before she saw it. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Then screeching tires.

A car came barrelling toward her, narrowly missing her son, who was playing with Legos on the sidewalk.

She had just witnessed the Albuquerque Police Department’s latest officer-involved shooting.

Police say an APD officer opened fire at a carjacking suspect who was fleeing down Ramos’ block in a car Wednesday morning. The suspect, who police said pointed a handgun at the officer, sped away and drove to a mobile home park in the Northeast Heights.

SWAT officers worked throughout the day at the mobile home park to try to find the suspect and arrest him, only to find he wasn’t there Wednesday night.

The incident began when officers were called to EspaƱola and Grand NE around 10 a.m. after a security company gave them GPS data on a car that had been carjacked from a woman, said officer Tanner Tixier, an APD spokesman.

Police Chief Gorden Eden said that when officers arrived at the scene, they took two suspects into custody, but that a third suspect jumped into a stolen vehicle and fled.

“As the suspect fled the scene, he pointed the gun at one of our officers, who shot at the suspect an unknown number of times,” Eden said.

Tixier said he didn’t know whether the suspect was struck by the gunfire.

Eden didn’t name the officer who fired but said he wasn’t injured in the shooting and would be placed on paid administrative leave, as is standard in police shootings.

Although shooting at a moving car is a violation of APD’s policies, Eden said the officer had perceived a threat to his safety.

“The person, while he was in a vehicle, pointed a firearm at the officer,” Eden said. “The officer perceived a threat and responded according to this training.”

Ramos said she was drinking coffee with her neighbor and saw about six police cars in front of a house about a block down her street. Officers started making announcements over a loudspeaker.

Then, she said, she saw a gray sedan weave through the police cars and speed down the street. An officer walking on the east side of the street raised his gun and pointed it at the car, which was fleeing ahead of him, Ramos said. Then she heard five shots.

“The cop just opened fire, trying to take him out,” she said.

She said she couldn’t see whether the suspect pointed a gun at the officer but said officers told her he did.

Shannon O’Neil, who lives nearby, said he heard five shots, went outside and heard an older officer tell the other officers that he had missed the suspect.

“He said something to the effect of, ‘I missed him; I didn’t get him,’ ” O’Neil said.

The other two people taken into custody haven’t been charged, and officers are interviewing them, Tixier said.

Eden said the security company provided real-time location information about the car as the suspect fled from police.

“Every time that vehicle made a turn, the GPS company was able to provide that to our dispatchers, and the dispatchers provided it to our officers immediately,” Eden said.

He said that when the suspect stopped at a mobile home park near San Pedro and Karlson NE, officers were close behind.

Eden didn’t name the suspect but said officers believe he may have recently been involved in three carjackings and three armed robberies of businesses. He is also wanted on a parole violation.

The SWAT team arrived at the mobile home park around noon and spent the day trying to find the suspect, only to discover he wasn’t there around 8 p.m.

Joseph Furst said he woke up to find police in the area. He said that around 11 a.m., an armored police vehicle knocked down the fence around a nearby trailer.

“There is nothing like walking out your door and seeing the SWAT team right there,” Furst said.

Journal photographer Roberto E. Rosales contributed to this report.