The Chaves County Sheriff’s Office is attending an inter-jurisdictional meeting with the New Mexico State Police, Eddy and Lea county Sheriff Departments, the FBI and Hobbs Police Department about the two homicides in Chaves County and the shooting of a Lea County sheriff’s deputy, Sgt. Michael Tovar, who was injured while executing a Chaves County search warrant at 61 E. Everglade Road in Hobbs.
“We are getting together to pool our resources,” said Chaves County Sheriff Rob Coon.
The agencies are all involved in different aspects of the investigation of the two murders and the subsequent search warrants. The New Mexico State Police became involved after Tovar was shot. According to reports, the NMSP takes over any case where an officer of the law is shot.
Coon said Tovar was released from the hospital but has yet to return to active duty. The NMSP arrested Juan Uribe-Vidal, 25, of Hobbs, and James Gomez, 22, of Hagerman, for the shooting.
Both the Lea County Sheriff’s Office and the Hobbs Police Department were called in to serve the warrant on Uribe-Vidal’s Hobbs residence.
Uribe-Vidal is considered a “person of interest” in connection with the two bodies which were found in Chaves County. The first was located east of Hagerman, along N.M. Hwy 249 on Nov. 19. The second was found on fire Nov. 21, next to Buffalo Valley Road, east of Lake Arthur. Both bodies were sent to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Albuquerque.
Coon said that the second body was identified as Mark T. Walters III, 48, by the OMI from a single thumbprint after a family member called in to say that he was missing. “That helped narrow the search,” he said.
Meanwhile, the first victim remains unidentified. CCSO is seeking the assistance of the public in identifying the man. “We think he may have come from Eddy or Lea county,” said Coon.
CCSO deputy Lt. Daniel Ornelas said the unidentified victim was a Hispanic male between 5 feet 5 inches and 5 feet 7 inches tall, weight 140 to 150 pounds. He had several distinctive tattoos, including a large one on his left upper arm of a crucifix with Jesus surrounded by clouds. He had the word “Molina” tattooed on his right forearm.
Both Uribe-Vidal and Gomez remain in custody in the Lea County Detention Center. Gomez, who had formerly been tried for the murder of 15-year-old Zachary Perez and acquitted, was out on bond from Chaves County on charges of two counts of aggravated assault and one charge of aggravated battery. He violated the conditions of his bond by leaving the county. In the affidavit of criminal complaint filed in Lea County, Gomez admitted to handling guns during the shoot-out with Lea County law enforcement. In addition, he now faces two counts of aggravated assault on a peace officer and one count of aggravated battery on a police officer.
The person of interest in the Chaves County case, Uribe-Vidal has been charged with 15 counts of aggravated assault on a police officer and one count of aggravated battery on a police officer.