ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Investigators found $90,000 in cash and a quantity of marijuana in the trunk of a car owned by a man shot and killed by an Albuquerque police officer Wednesday after a high-speed chase that began in northwest Albuquerque and ended in a field near Grants.
APD SWAT officer Russ Carter shot Gary Atencio, who was armed and running from his vehicle in a field near Interstate 40.
The chase began when Atencio fired several shots at his wife near the Lovelace West Side Hospital on McMahon NW and then shot at a witness who tried to follow him, police said.
|Listen to the 911 call here (or look below)|
This is not the first time in the media spotlight for Carter, a 15-year APD veteran. He has been involved in shootings twice before, and in 2008, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge after a bar fight in Fort Smith, Ark.
State Police, the agency conducting the investigation into Wednesday’s shooting, has released few details other than to say Atencio was armed when he ran from his vehicle.
But Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz said at a news conference Thursday that Atencio’s wife is lucky to be alive.
She and her husband were going through a divorce and had met earlier in the day to discuss reconciliation, but it didn’t work out, Schultz said. As they drove away from a restaurant, Atencio choked her in his car, but she was able to get out.
A friend happened to be driving by, and the woman got into her friend’s car, he said. Atencio blocked the other vehicle and got out of his vehicle and fired several shots at his wife through the windshield.
He then pulled his wife out of the other vehicle, Schultz said, put her on the ground and fired another shot from directly above her.
All the shots missed, but the woman was admitted to the hospital for cuts to her head and a broken ankle.
Meanwhile, Atencio drove away, the chief said. He fired several more shots at a witness who tried to follow him before Carter and other officers who were working a tactical operation in the area got on his tail.
APD was in charge of the pursuit, which hit speeds of 130 miles an hour, as it headed westbound, Schultz said, until the speeding vehicles passed the Route 66 Casino. That’s where APD’s radios stopped working and State Police dispatch soon took over.
Atencio eventually crashed his Ford Mustang into a semi-truck and then fled on foot.
Schultz said investigators discovered $90,000 in cash and a quantity of marijuana from the trunk of Atencio’s vehicle after Carter shot him.
Atencio, according to police records, has a history and Wednesday wasn’t the first time he had been violent toward his wife.
In September 2010, he attacked her at the couple’s Albuquerque home, police reports state. After police took him into custody, he told officers he should have charged at them with a sharpened letter opener “so that officers would shoot him.”
In February 2005, Carter was one of seven officers from various departments who fired shots at 59-year-old John Loche in McIntosh, N.M.
Loche, who was killed, had barricaded himself inside his home after Torrance County deputies tried to serve an eviction notice.
The sheriff’s office requested back-up from APD and other agencies after Loche began shooting at them.
In June 2007, Carter and another APD SWAT officer shot and killed 42-year-old Jay Martin Murphy after Murphy barricaded himself inside his Albuquerque home with his teenage daughter.
Police said at the time that Murphy had a knife and had thrown bottles at officers.
Schultz said Thursday it’s not uncommon for officers who work in tactical units to be involved in multiple shootings throughout their careers.
“They are often in high-risk situations more than other officers,” he said.
Wednesday marked the third officer-involved shooting for APD this year and the second this week. On Monday, officer Martin Smith fatally shot 31-year-old Daniel Tillison outside an apartment complex on the 8200 block of Marquette NE.
Schultz said Tillison had rammed Smith’s police vehicle and another vehicle, then “pointed a dark object” that turned out to be a cellphone at Smith prior to the shooting. Last year, there were six fatal officer-involved shootings in Albuquerque. In 2010, APD officers shot 14 people, nine of them fatally.
Carter and a fellow K-9 officer were charged in November 2007 after they got into a dispute with two bouncers at Roosters, a popular tavern in Fort Smith where the two officers were doing contract work for the U.S. Department of Energy.
According to Fort Smith police reports, the two Albuquerque officers were trying to get into the bar Oct. 26 when Carter became “argumentative,” shouted at a bouncer “what are you looking at?” and tried to start a fight. Bouncers and other employees tried to get Carter and the other officer to leave when Carter “rushed” one of the bouncers and knocked him to the ground, police reports state. The other officer “stomped” on the fallen bouncer’s head and struck another bouncer in the face.
The charges prompted Schultz to fly to Arkansas on a “fact-finding mission.”
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal
(WARNING: There is foul language in the second 911 call as Atencio can be heard yelling at the woman)