LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico State University faculty member says Las Cruces police needlessly put him in danger by allowing a taxi cab driver sought in a shooting to pick him up as a fare before officers stopped the cab and arrested the driver at gunpoint.
Daniel Vega-Albela, an assistant professor of music, said he too was held at gunpoint and then put in handcuffs for a half-hour after police stopped the cab immediately after Vega-Albela got in, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported [auth] (http://bit.ly/WuUBgn ).
Vega-Albela said police had been in touch with the taxi company and knew he had called for a cab and that the driver was about to pick up him. Police should have called him and told him not to leave the friend’s house where he called for a cab after having dinner, he said.
Vega-Albela filed a report with Las Cruces police, complaining that the way police handled the Feb. 22 incident put his life in jeopardy. He also said his rights were violated during the stop.
“Why was my human life put in that position?” Vega-Albela asked Thursday. “Who made that awfully flawed decision?”
Police spokesman Dan Trujillo said Friday he could not comment, pending the outcome of an internal-affairs investigation.
Police arrested Darren Henry, 47, in the shooting of his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend during an argument. The shooting occurred about a half hour before Vega-Albela was picked up.
Ernie Harp, the general manager of Las Cruces Taxi Service, said the company’s dispatcher asked police to pick up Henry at the company’s base — the procedure the business follows when police ask to speak with drivers.
Harp said police refused that option and only told the dispatcher they wanted Henry for questioning.
Harp said company officials were unaware of the alleged shooting because it happened on Henry’s lunch break.
When asked if he would pursue civil action in the case, Vega-Albela said he didn’t know.
“I do feel that somebody should be made accountable,” he said Thursday.