Woman disputes account of NM shooting of NY man

January 11, 2014 • State News

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico woman disputes authorities’ account of what happened before a State Police officer shot at a 72-year-old New York man’s vehicle, wounding the man.

Albert J. Urban of Hamburg remained hospitalized and was facing two counts of aggravated assault upon a police officer and one count of aggravated fleeing a law enforcement officer.

Motorists had reported a van driving the wrong way on Interstate 25 near Las Vegas on Saturday night, and police eventually stopped it. Authorities say the shooting occurred when the van then drove toward and struck an officer’s vehicle.

A criminal complaint filed against Urban said the officer fired after parking his vehicle in front of the Ford van and getting out. The van then spun its wheels and “struck the front end of Officer Wright’s unit, pushing it back approximately one foot.”

However, Helen Vargas of Romeroville says the van didn’t drive aggressively toward the officer’s vehicle, the Las Vegas Optic ( ) reported.

The van’s driver did nothing to provoke being shot, Vargas said in an interview.

Four State Police cars followed the van at a very low speed before shots were fired when one of the police vehicles pulled up next to the van, Vargas said.

She said she and her husband “never saw the minivan drive toward the officers. They were behind him the whole time.”

Sgt. Damyan Brown, a State Police spokesman, said Vargas’ account hasn’t been corroborated.

Brown said the results of the investigation will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for review.

“The New Mexico State Police conducts investigations that are transparent and factual in substance. By no means is anything ever hidden from the public,” Brown said.

Vargas said she and her husband met with an investigator to let him know what they witnessed, and she said the investigator didn’t seem to believe them.

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