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Two Artesia schools locked down during standoff

Two men were detained after a police standoff in Artesia that caused two schools to be placed on lockdown Wednesday.

The standoff, lasting from about 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the 400 block of Cleveland Avenue, was connected to the Sunday homicide investigation that began after a man was found dead that day in the middle of Haystack Road, said Lt. Matt Hutchinson with the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office.

Hutchinson said two people were detained for questioning during the incident, but no formal charges were brought. Hutchinson said the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office received an anonymous tip as to the whereabouts of a person of interest in the original homicide investigation. Based on the tip, detectives obtained a warrant to search the house, he said.

“The people came out willfully in the beginning,” Hutchinson said. “This how we want it to happen: no one got hurt on both sides.”

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Danny Mendes, 49, was found dead Sunday on Haystack Road, and Eddy County Sheriff Office investigators were called in to investigate a potential murder, according to a news release.

Investigators labeled his death a possible homicide due to the nature of Mendes’ injuries, said Hutchinson.

“The injuries are just not consistent with a natural death,” he said. “So we’re treating it as a homicide.”

Artesia Police were called to the scene at Cleveland Avenue at about 11:15 a.m. to assist with the standoff led by the Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from New Mexico State Police and the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force.

Artesia Police Cmdr. Lindell Smith said the two nearby schools, Roselawn Elementary and Artesia Headstart, locked down to protect the safety of the students.

An official at Artesia Headstart said the school had been on lockdown from about 11:30 a.m. and remained so through the afternoon under the superintendent’s direction. Students were allowed to be picked up by their parents from a back exit at the normal 2 p.m. dismissal time.

Carmen Reyes, Family and Community Partnership Manager at Head Start, said the school was ordered to go on lockdown by the superintendent at about 11:30 due to the potential danger posed to students at the preschool.

She said all the doors and windows were locked, and no one was allowed in or out of the building at 615 W. Kemp Ave.

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“We’re making sure everyone is aware,” she said. “The most important thing is keeping the kids safe.”

Reyes said multiple parents called the school as information on the standoff and lockdown circulated in the media.

The lockdown was the third in about two years at the school, Reyes said. She said students and staff are trained on how to act during the situation.

“They know exactly what to do,” she said.

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, achedden@currentargus.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.

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