HATCH, N.M. – Authorities don’t yet know why a New Mexico police officer in a small village famous for its green chile pulled over two Ohio murder suspects before being gunned down.
But the daytime encounter with Jesse Hanes and James Nelson on Friday turned out to be deadly for one of the eight police officers in Hatch, 190 miles south of Albuquerque.
Officer Jose Chavez, 33, was shot dead at a convenience store in front of a fellow officer who had just arrived, authorities said.
The suspected shooter is Hanes, 38, who along with Nelson was wanted in Ohio in the July 25 shooting death of a 62-year-old man just outside Chillicothe, about 60 miles south of Columbus.
Ohio authorities had said that Hanes and Nelson, 36, were believed to have fled the state and were armed and extremely dangerous, warning that the two men have a violent criminal history.
It’s unclear whether Chavez, a father of two children who joined the Hatch Police Department two years ago, knew the suspects were wanted in Ohio.
A fellow officer who arrived to assist just as Chavez was shot reported seeing him with paperwork and appearing to draw his service weapon before smoke filled the air and Chavez fell to the ground.
Chavez was shot in the neck and airlifted to University Medical Center in El Paso, where he later died.
Dona Ana County Sheriff Enrique “Kiki” Vigil said Chavez went through training at the department’s academy in 2013 and that he was considered one of their own.
“We’ve lost one of our best,” Vigil said.
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