New details emerged Thursday of the argument between two Santa Fe County sheriff’s deputies that preceded a 2014 shooting that left one man dead.
Ex-deputy Tai Chan is on trial in 3rd Judicial District Court on charges of first-degree murder after he fatally shot fellow deputy Jeremy Martin in a Las Cruces hotel.
Chan has pleaded not guilty, and his attorneys are arguing he shot his coworker in self-defense. Prosecutors argue Chan murdered Martin deliberately.
Chan’s then-girlfriend, now-wife, Leah Tafoya-Chan gave emotional testimony of being on the phone with Chan during much of the exchange that led to shots being fired inside Hotel Encanto room 711 after midnight on Oct. 28, 2014.
An acquaintance of Chan, Ian Robles, testified to jurors about the argument that ignited tensions between the two men earlier that evening at a local restaurant-pub.
Chan and Martin had stopped in Las Cruces overnight after transporting a prisoner to Arizona earlier that day. Chan called a couple of friends and a cousin to join him and Martin at a local restaurant pub, Dublin’s.
Robles was there and he was sober.
The two deputies were arguing about a Santa Fe double-homicide case in which two kids were found dead in a car, Robles said. Chan joked to Martin, ‘It’s your fault,’ Robles said. Something about the exchange angered Martin and at one point he walked away from the table.
Robles did not provide details but the double-homicide in question could have been the murder of 13-year-old AnaMarie Ojeda and her 18-year-old boyfriend Venancio “Venny” Cisneros just two days prior.
Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Juan Rios confirmed today that Martin was called to the scene of the execution style slayings. His role was the secure the crime scene and control who came and went, Rios said. Chan, at the time a warrant agent and member of the SWAT team, had no connection to the case, according to Rios.
Ricardo “Ricky Martinez, about 21 years-old, was arrested and charged with the killings about three weeks after the shootings after he was tracked to Colorado Springs.
Robles also testified that Martin was repeatedly calling Chan “gay,” telling him to “come out of the closet” and betting that he wouldn’t talk to a girl.
The argument at Dublin’s never escalated beyond raised voices, Robles said.
Tafoya-Chan took the stand after Robles. She told the jury she and Chan had been dating for more than a year and she was nine weeks pregnant with his child at the time. Chan called her around midnight, she said.
“Tai called and he was rambling,” she told the jury. “That’s when I started getting scared. He said a lot of things that weren’t making sense to me.”
One of the things he told her: ‘They are framing me for murder.’
Tafoya-Chan said she was yelling at him, asking what was happening, what was going on — then the phone disconnected. She started calling him repeatedly. There was a second phone call in which she heard shuffling before the line disconnected.
Then, a third phone call that lasted some 20 minutes.
Tafoya-Chan told jurors she heard someone — not Chan — say ‘Nobody’s going to jail. We’re not getting arrested.’ She heard an echo as if Chan was in the bathroom. There was banging on the door. And Chan told her, ‘He punched me in the face and kicked me in the balls.’
She told the jury she heard the door open and then “fisticuffs” or a “fight,” then Chan yelling “strong verbal commands”: ‘Sit down, sit down.’ Then, a “pow,” like “something being hit against a wall.” Then, “I heard two shots,” she said.
Tafoya-Chan told her husband’s defense attorney, John Day, that she heard a muffled ‘please no, please no’ and she believed it was Chan speaking. Later, she told deputy district attorney Davis Ruark that she couldn’t be sure whose muffled voice it was.
The trial is ongoing today and is expected to continue tomorrow.
The state rested its case around 11 a.m.
This is a developing story.