LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A northern New Mexico sheriff’s deputy was charged with an open count of murder Tuesday after he allegedly fired several rounds from his handgun as his colleague tried to flee an alcohol-fueled argument at a hotel, police said.
Deputy Tai Chan, a warrant officer with Santa Fe County, was being held without bond at the Dona Ana County Detention Center.
The shooting happened just after midnight at Hotel Encanto in the southern New Mexico city of Las Cruces, where the two Santa Fe County deputies had stopped to spend the night after transporting a prisoner to Safford, Arizona.
Investigators say Chan, 27, and Deputy Jeremy Martin, 29, went to three restaurants Monday night, including Dublin’s Street Pub where they drank and got into a heated argument. The fight escalated once they were back at the hotel.
Witnesses heard arguing and then several gunshots rang out.
As Martin tried to flee into an elevator, he was shot in the back and arms, authorities said.
Police arrived at the hotel and found Martin staggering off the elevator with multiple wounds, Las Cruces police spokesman Dan Trujillo said.
Martin was taken to a Las Cruces hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Chan was found in a stairwell near the hotel’s roof. He was taken into custody without incident and a Glock semi-automatic handgun, believed to be his duty weapon, was found nearby.
Chan’s attorney, John Day, said the shooting was still under investigation and details were limited.
“It’s a tragic situation for everybody involved,” the Santa Fe lawyer said.
Investigators with the Las Cruces Police Department were at Hotel Encanto’s parking lot Tuesday collecting evidence that appeared to be from a deputy’s vehicle. Hotel security staff prevented reporters from approaching the scene and ordered media off the property.
Inside, areas of the hotel were cordoned off with crime scene tape while investigators worked.
Santa Fe County Sheriff Robert Garcia said his department was mourning.
“I have grief counselors or crisis counselors here now meeting with a lot of my personnel, but it’s a grieving law enforcement agency,” Garcia said.
He said Martin had been a deputy for 2 1/2 years, and Chan was on the force for three years.
Martin, a patrol officer, was married and had three children, all under the age of 10, the sheriff’s office said.
At an emotional news conference, Garcia called both deputies “hardworking, committed individuals.”
“I’m lost,” Garcia said. “I’m at a loss for words.”
Martin’s widow Sarah told the Albuquerque Journal in a brief telephone interview that the sheriff came to her home early Tuesday to deliver news of the death.
“He was a self-sacrificing kind of a person and put everyone else first,” she said of her husband. “He was very well-balanced as far as family and career. He had a big heart and gave everyone the benefit of the doubt.”