A former Jemez Springs police chief and Valencia County sheriff’s deputy is forever barred from working as a police officer in the U.S., and he must spend the next five years on supervised probation after pleading no contest to charges stemming from a 2013 incident in which a teen accused him of sexually assaulting her during a traffic stop.
The victim, now 23, spoke Tuesday morning before 13th Judicial District Judge George Eichwald in Sandoval County during sentencing for Shane Harger saying what happened that January 2013 night shattered her trust in law enforcement and violated Harger’s oath to protect the public.
She and special prosecutor Mark Drebing said Harger digitally penetrated her during a bizarre traffic stop in Jemez Springs prompted by a confidential tip that the vehicle the teen was in was carrying heroin.
Two of her grandparents were police officers, she told the court.
“I should have felt safe that night,” she said. “As of right now, I get scared of police officers ….”
Harger pleaded no contest to charges of battery, false imprisonment and tampering with evidence in a plea deal that dropped the sexual assault, extortion and kidnapping charges and helped Harger avoid the possible 18 years he could have faced at trial.
His attorney, Jason Bowles, said the facts in the case were “highly contested” and Harger didn’t want to gamble with “his life and his family,” including his wife and son who were both in court for Tuesday’s sentencing. He said the community “lost a fine law enforcement officer” because of the case.
Harger’s supervised probation prohibits him from ever working as a police officer again and requires direct supervision for five of the total eights years on probation. Bowles told the court on Tuesday that Harger and his family were hoping to leave the country to rebuild their life. Since that can’t happen because of the supervised probation, Harger will continue to find work in construction, Bowles said.
Harger’s name has surfaced in at least three major incidents in New Mexico in the last decade.
In 2007, Harger, then a Valencia County deputy, was the first responder to the death of Tera Chavez, then wife of an Albuquerque police officer, Levi Chavez, eventually put on trial for her murder. Chavez was acquitted.
Harger then went to the Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Department where, he told the Journal in 2011, he uncovered a police-run auto-theft ring but was told he’d keep his job if he kept it quiet and didn’t cause trouble for Levi Chavez in his wife’s death investigation. Harger left the post in 2008 in fear for his and his family’s safety.
Harger then became police chief in Jemez Springs but was fired in February 2014 one month after the Transportation Security Administration stopped him at the Albuquerque International Sunport because he had at least two driver’s licenses with two different names. At the time he was on his way to support anti-federal government activists at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada.
Harger still uses one of the names on one of the licenses. He is currently doing construction work under the name Braxton Haze, and as such has various court records including minor citations for open burning and driving violations as well as larger civil cases, one accusing him of doing poor construction work, and two accusing others of not paying for work as agreed.