The scene of the events Monday afternoon. (Jessica Palmer Photo)
What started as a motorist assist turned into an officer-involved shooting and a multi-car accident, two people dead, one New Mexico State Police sergeant shot and a Roswell Police officer in critical condition at a Lubbock hospital, Monday.
The incident began around 9 a.m. Monday, when NMSP Investigation Bureau Sgt. Lawrence Murray stopped to help a woman who was standing on the side of US 285 at mile post 87. Murray spoke with her. She advised that her significant other was farther up the road.
The sergeant went to the location where the male subject sat in his vehicle. When Murray turned on his vehicle’s flashers and sirens, the male subject drove away northbound, and a pursuit ensued.
Officers from Chaves County Sheriff’s Office and Roswell Police Department were called for backup. The vehicles traveled northbound along 285 toward Chickasaw Road. Officials laid out spike strips. The male subject in a green Jaguar drove over the strips, deflating the tires. Pursuit continued for another four miles.
As the suspect vehicle came to a stop, the driver produced a weapon and shot at law enforcement. Officials returned fire. Murray was struck in the upper thigh. The male subject, later identified as Cristoval Quintana, 30, was killed.
NMSP Public Information Officer Emmanuel Gutierrez could not say how many shots were fired. “These cases are very intensive and complicated.” He noted that the investigation is ongoing and the crime scene has yet to be completely assessed.
Gutierrez described Quintana as a violent offender who had been arrested previously for trafficking drugs. He was arrested in Albuquerque on charges of armed robbery in September 2004. He had been released from prison but re-mained on probation until August 2016.
Officials set up road blocks along Hwy 285. Around 11:30 a.m., an accident resulted when a commercial vehicle driving southbound plowed into another vehicle, which had a knock-on effect. The first vehicle struck a red pickup, ran into a white passenger car which then hit a third vehicle, a black SUV. The truck veered into the median strip and into Roswell Police Department CID sergeant. The driver, 39-year-old Rose Becerra of Lake Arthur, was air-lifted to Roswell and pronounced dead on arrival.
The RPD sergeant was flown to a hospital in Lubbock where he remains in critical condition. CCSO Lt. Britt Snyder was witness to the scene, saying he was less than 50 feet away from the officer when he was hit. The RPD was unwilling to release the name of the sergeant, saying only that he was part of their Criminal Investigation Division.
NMSP Capt. Dina Orozco said Murray was transported to Eastern New Mexico Medical Center, treated for his injuries and released.
Hwy 285 was still closed as of 9 p.m. Monday and the investigation is continuing. Gutierrez could not say when the road would be open to traffic. “We have had two major incidents in a single location, but we have a lot of cooperation with other agencies in conducting our inquiries.”