By Robert Browman and Ryan Boetel / Journal
By Robert Browman and Ryan Boetel / Journal
A citywide, multi-agency manhunt for the person who shot an Albuquerque police officer during an early morning traffic stop, then escaped the scene, continued late Saturday night.
The veteran officer, whose name had not been released by police, was shot twice – once in his torso and once in his bullet-proof vest – as he approached a man suspected of driving drunk early Saturday morning in the northeast part of the city. He was in stable condition early Saturday, and was out of surgery and in good spirits by evening, said Albuquerque Police Department officer Simon Drobik, a spokesman.
The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, New Mexico State Police, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service joined APD’s uniformed and undercover officers in the search of the suspect, Drobik said.
“We’re obviously on high alert. We’ve got a lot of players on this,” Drobik said. “This, right now, is the priority. We’re dedicating all our resources to finding this individual.”
The shots were fired around 2:30 a.m. Saturday near San Mateo Boulevard and San Mateo Lane, north of Montgomery, after the officer pulled the suspect over. The driver opened fire at the officer as he was approaching the suspect’s vehicle, Police Chief Gorden Eden said.
“The driver fired at the officer several times, striking the officer at least twice,” Eden said Saturday morning. “The officer went to the ground and was able to fire at the vehicle.”
A tight grouping of bullet holes marked the suspect’s vehicle but police said it was unknown if the suspect was hit. The suspect ran north through the parking lots of several businesses after the shooting.
Police are searching for a clean-shaven, white or light-skinned Hispanic man, about 6 feet tall, who was wearing a dark jacket, dark jeans and a brown baseball cap. Police wouldn’t say whether they had identified a suspect.
Eden said the officer is a 30-year veteran of the police department. He said police are waiting to inform members of his extended family before identifying him.
“He’s a very dedicated, well-rounded person who has devoted 30 years of his life to serving his community,” Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association President Stephanie Lopez said. “He stayed calm and cool, to be shot and stay in the fight to go home to his family.”
Drobik said the officer had turned on his lapel camera after he stopped the vehicle and the shooting was captured on video. Police did not release the video Saturday. Police also contacted nearby businesses to see if they had security camera footage of the suspect.
Police confiscated the suspect’s vehicle but didn’t release any information about it or who it belongs to.
Crime scene tape cordoned off several blocks on San Mateo Lane east of San Mateo Boulevard and APD’s mobile crime lab was on scene for much of the morning. Within the crime scene tape was a silver SUV with about six bullet holes near the driver’s side door. A rear passenger window on the driver’s side also appeared to be shattered. Police later Saturday had the vehicle towed.
Drobik said ATF is offering a $7,000 reward for information that leads to the suspect’s arrest and conviction. On Saturday evening, police called on the man to turn himself in.
“To the individual responsible for shooting our officer, we would compel you to come forward (and) call 242-COPS and we will be able to take you into custody at that time,” Drobik said.
He also called on any of the suspect’s friends or family to come forward with information about his whereabouts.
“We will safely take him into custody,” he said. “I can’t stress enough that we are urging the offender to come forward.”
Drobik said the officer is the fifth APD officer to be shot since March 2013. All have survived.
In March 2013, Kendall Carroll shot an APD officer in the lower back and, in October 2013, Christopher Chase shot three APD officers, and also shot and seriously wounded a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputy. Both Carroll and Chase were later shot and killed by police.
“Our officers are out there conducting dangerous work. It’s a dangerous environment, and we continue to pray for (the officer’s) recovery and we appreciate the support of the community,” Eden said. “Any time an officer is shot, not only does it impact the department, but also it impacts our community.”
Mayor Richard Berry in a prepared statement said his thoughts and prayers were with the officer and his family.
“Every day, our officers risk their lives to protect us and we are grateful for their service,” he said. “It is important that we never take for granted the dangerous work they do.”