Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
Police say three officers who opened fire on an armed suspect during an attempted carjacking Friday also unintentionally shot and wounded the driver of the vehicle.
The victim, Becky Nottke of Santa Fe, is chairwoman of the state Manufactured Housing Committee.
She had been in Albuquerque for the committee’s bimonthly meeting when a man tried to take her car in an attempt to escape from police, her co-member Scott Christensen told the Journal on Monday.
Christensen said he and Nottke were leaving the meeting at the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, on San Antonio near Interstate 25, about 1 p.m. when a man police identified as Lee Brandenburg, 41, ran through the parking lot tailed by the officers. The officers were trying to arrest him on a felony warrant.
Police shot Brandenburg multiple times in both legs and Nottke was hit once in the leg, said officer Simon Drobik, a spokesman for the Albuquerque Police Department. He declined to identify the officers at this time.
Nottke and Brandenburg are both still recovering at University of New Mexico Hospital.
Christensen, the vice-chair of the committee, said he was walking out of the meeting with Nottke and a couple of other members when they noticed police cars with sirens on nearby. He said Nottke said she was about to meet her daughter for lunch and then they all went their separate ways.
That’s when Brandenburg ran up to him and attempted to take his car, Christensen said.
“I look toward him and saw the barrel of the gun,” he said. “I was in fear for my life, he said he was going to shoot me and I believed him.”
Christensen said he started running and was about 20 feet away when he turned and saw that Brandenburg was now trying to take Nottke’s car instead.
“He put his gun in his mouth, grabbed her mirror and (then) started banging his pistol on the driver’s side window,” he said.
When the officers saw Brandenburg armed with the gun and trying to carjack Nottke, they opened fire, Drobik said. He said Brandenburg very briefly pointed the gun at officers as well.
“Those officers didn’t wake up that morning wanting to get into that situation,” he said. “But in the totality of the circumstances in that moment they thought they had to take action to stop his actions. Unfortunately the female who was being carjacked was hit by one of our rounds.”
Brandenburg and Nottke were taken to the hospital. When Brandenburg is released he will be booked into the county jail on two counts of attempted armed robbery and one count of aggravated assault, Drobik said.
Christensen said he has spoken with Nottke since she was admitted to the hospital. He said she had surgery on her knee over the weekend and will have to be in a cast for quite a while.
Nottke was appointed to the Manufactured Housing Committee in 2009 by Gov. Susana Martinez, said Alex Sanchez, the deputy superintendent for the Regulation and Licensing Department. She was elected chair in 2015 and took over in December.
Christensen, a Portales resident, said he has served with Nottke for several years and the whole incident really shook him and the other committee members up. He said he’s thankful the officers took the action they did but wishes he and Nottke and the other members had been able to avoid the situation all together.
“In some ways they’re family,” Christensen said. “I’ve known those people for years. How do we as a community keep a look out for each other to keep each other safe?”
This is the third time this year on-duty officers have fired their weapons.
On Jan. 7, police shot and killed Gilbert Lovato, whom they were trying to arrest. Then, on Jan. 26, police opened fire on Moses Hernandez, who they say had shot another man, but no one was hit by their gunfire.