Officer-involved shooting sends one to the hospital


Los Lunas Police Department officials have released the names of both the officer and the suspect from an officer-involved shooting the day after Christmas.

Los Lunas Police Chief Roy Melnick said patrol officer John Valdez shot 50-year-old Ruben Sanchez, of Los Lunas, on Dec. 26 after responding to a domestic violence call at 1067 N.M. 314, just north of Tondre Road, shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday.

Barron Jones-News-Bulletin photo: Emergency medical personnel work on 50-year-old Ruben Sanchez, who was shot last week by Los Lunas police officer John Valdez. Sanchez, who is listed in serious condition in an Albuquerque hospital, is charged with one count of battery on a household member, one count of resisting, evading or obstructing an officer, one count of interference with communications and one count of aggravated assault on a peace officer.

LLPD spokesman Lt. Vince Torres said when officers arrived on the scene, they noticed a group of people hanging out in front of the house they were responding to for the domestic violence call.

Torres said the responding officers witnessed Sanchez push his wife to the ground before running and barricading himself inside the home they share.

Los Lunas police officers surrounded the location and gave Sanchez several commands to come out of the home.

Melnick said Valdez fired his weapon after Sanchez, reportedly, threatened responding officers with one of the guns officials later removed from the house.

“The person shot had pointed a rifle in his (Valdez’s) direction and after several times of asking him to put down the weapon, the police felt threatened and he shot,” Melnick said.

State Police Lt. Emmanuel Gutierrez said when officers arrived at the scene, they saw a man standing in the open doorway with his hands around a long object held as a rifle, pointing forward from his shoulder.

“The specific hand placement, arm configuration and finger configuration appeared to be his left hand gripping a fore stock, his right hand holding a rear stock and his right fingers placed in a trigger position of a long rifle,” Gutierrez said in a press release.

State police said Los Lunas officers believed Sanchez was holding a long rifle, aiming it at them. Valdez shot Sanchez, striking him once in the torso and the other round striking the house.

Gutierrez said Sanchez, who was shot while standing in the doorway of the home, did not fire a weapon at officers.

New Mexico State Police is investigating the shooting, at the request of the Los Lunas Police Department. Melnick said in the past five years, he has asked state police to investigate as many as six shootings involving LLPD officers.

“I called the state police to come down and do an independent investigation and then they present the information to the district attorney’s office,” Melnick said. “The district attorney will rule whether or not they will proceed with any charges against the officer or if the officer’s shooting was reasonable and appropriate.”

Is it standard operating procedure, Guiterrez said, for the state police to investigate an officer-involved shooting if requested.

“We investigate if we are asked by the involved agency,” Gutierrez said.

Area resident Gloria Vigil said she heard a loud boom, followed by three sounds she believed to be gunshots.

During the standoff, LLPD SWAT team employed a variety of methods, including deploying flash bang grenades and tear gas to persuade Sanchez to exit the house.

“We tried to use no lethal force to try and persuade the person to surrender peacefully without anyone getting hurt,” Melnick said

After about 3 1/2 hours, Sanchez eventually surrendered and was airlifted to the hospital. Once Sanchez was placed in custody, SWAT officers would spend a couple more hours trying to get a second suspect to exit the house, but they learned the house was empty.

Sanchez, who is listed in serious condition at UNM-H, is under police watch until he is healthy enough to be booked into the Valencia County Detention Center.

According to online court records, Sanchez is charged with one count of battery on a household member, one count of resisting, evading or obstructing an officer and interference with communications. Gutierrez said Sanchez is also charged with aggravated assault on a peace officer with a deadly weapon.

Melnick said this most recent shooting is the first officer-involved shooting the department has had in more than a year.

Torres said both of the victims of Sanchez’s alleged domestic violence, including his wife, were transported to area hospitals for their injuries.

Valdez, who has been with LLPD for one year, is a former officer with Bosque Farms Police Department and remains on standard paid administrative leave.

Melnick said his department’s preliminary investigation shows that all of his officers acted appropriately.