An Ohio fugitive wanted for murder has been arrested in the fatal shooting of a New Mexico police officer while a second man who was his passenger is being held on a warrant.
Jesse Hanes, 38, is suspected of gunning down Hatch Police Officer Jose Chavez, 33, during a traffic stop Friday, Dona Ana County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Jameson said.
In the car with Hanes was 36-year-old James Nelson, who is also wanted in Ohio on suspicion of murder. Nelson is being held on a fugitive warrant. A third man in the car was a hitchhiker who is being treated as a witness and won’t be charged, Jameson said.
Authorities say the confrontation began in the village of Hatch, about 40 miles northwest of Las Cruces, when Chavez pulled over Hanes, who was driving a luxury car with Nelson and the hitchhiker as passengers. A fellow officer who arrived to assist Chavez said he saw him holding paperwork and reaching for his service weapon before he was shot and fell to the ground.
Hanes then fled on Interstate 25 at speeds up to 100 miles per hour before stopping at a rest stop, authorities said. He carjacked a 36-year-old man, shooting him in the stomach after the man refused to accompany him, police said. That man has not been identified but is in stable condition at an El Paso, Texas, hospital and could be released Saturday, Jameson said.
Hanes fled after shooting the man, but sheriff’s deputies were able to stop him by using a tire-deflating device. The suspect crashed the vehicle into a pile of wood and briefly barricaded himself in the car before surrendering to deputies, Jameson said. The suspect had a gunshot wound to the right thigh which appeared to be self-inflicted, she said.
Nelson and the hitchhiker were found about 7 miles away near Rincon. Jameson said she doesn’t know why Chavez initiated the stop.
Chavez, who was shot in the neck, died at University Medical Center in El Paso, Texas. He had been an officer with the department for two years. His body has been escorted to Albuquerque, where the medical examiner will conduct an autopsy Monday. An Albuquerque funeral business has offered to provide free services, Jameson said.
Dona Ana County Sheriff Enrique `Kiki’ Vigil said Chavez went through training at the department’s academy and that he was considered one of their own. “We’re not gonna allow these folks to get away. We’ve lost one of our best,” Vigil said.
Sheriff’s deputies have taken over public safety duties in Hatch while the small police department mourns Chavez’s death. “There’s a total of eight (officers) out there. Today there’s seven,” Vigil said.
Hanes and Nelson are wanted in Ohio in the July 25 shooting death of a 62-year-old man just outside Chillicothe, about 60 miles south of Columbus.
A bulletin issued afterward by the Ross County Sheriff’s Office in Ohio had said that Hanes and Nelson were believed to have fled the state and were armed and extremely dangerous. It warned that the two men have a violent criminal history.
Hanes was 16 and living in Columbus when he pleaded guilty in 1995 to involuntary manslaughter and other charges. He was sentenced to prison and released at 32. He went to prison again in 2014 after pleading guilty to robbery and was released in April 2015.
Nelson, who also goes by “JD,” has a string of drug-related convictions in central Ohio dating back to the mid-1990s. Hanes remains hospitalized and has not been booked.