Two men wanted on murder charges in Ohio were arrested Friday in Doña Ana County, one of which is now charged on an open count of murder in the shooting death of 33-year-old Hatch Police Officer Jose Chavez.
Jesse Hanes, 38, and James Nelson, 36, were said to be traveling in a silver 1991 Lexus that had been pulled over Friday afternoon by Officer Chavez. Doña Ana County Sheriff’s detectives, who are investigating the shooting death, say Hanes allegedly shot Officer Chavez through the passenger-side window of the Lexus as Chavez approached the vehicle during the stop. Hanes was reportedly the driver of the Lexus. Nelson has been identified as the front-seat passenger of the vehicle, and a third male – who is no longer a suspect in any of Friday’s incidents – was in the passenger-side rear seat.
A responding Hatch officer was finishing his assignment as a school resource officer Friday and reportedly spoke to Officer Chavez on the phone. He told detectives that Chavez said he was about to make a traffic stop in front of the Pic Quik convenience store on Franklin Avenue. The responding officer told Chavez he would meet him there to assist.
When the assisting officer arrived, he reported seeing Officer Chavez at the passenger side of the Lexus. The assisting officer said Chavez was holding paperwork, but appeared to also be reaching for his service weapon. The officer said he saw smoke and then reported seeing Officer Chavez fall to the ground.
The assisting officer reportedly returned fire toward the silver Lexus before it sped away on Franklin Avenue toward Interstate 25. He then alerted dispatch to an “officer down” at 3:42 p.m.
An additional Hatch Police officer, who was also en route to the traffic stop on Franklin Avenue, initiated a pursuit of the Lexus. She reported speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour and eventually lost sight of the vehicle.
Sheriff’s detectives assigned to the case believe Hanes exited Interstate 25 at a rest area near Radium Springs and got out of the Lexus.
According to witnesses at the rest area, a man in a red shirt was seen approaching motorists, allegedly demanding keys to their vehicles. One motorist, who was driving a red Chevy Cruze, was also approached by the man in the red shirt and was reportedly told to hand over his keys and go with the man in the red shirt. The motorist gave the man the keys to the vehicle but refused to go with him. He was then reportedly shot once in the torso. Dispatch reported the time of that call at 4:02 p.m. The 36-year-old motorist at the rest area was transported to a trauma center in El Paso. He was said to be in stable condition Saturday.
The man in the red shirt allegedly took the red Cruze and sped away from the rest area.
A multi-agency response began to stem from the officer-involved shooting in Hatch. Doña Ana County Sheriff’s deputies, who were alerted to the situation at the rest area, reported seeing the red Cruze northbound on N.M. 185. Deputies then coordinated the deployment of a tire-deflating device ahead of the Cruze’s known location.
The device successfully incapacitated the Cruze, which eventually came to a stop when the driver allegedly crashed the vehicle into a pile of firewood at a residence in the 23000 block of N.M. 185.
Deputies surrounded the Cruze while the driver briefly barricaded himself inside. He then exited the vehicle and was observed to have suffered a gunshot wound to the upper right thigh.
The driver, said to have been wearing a red shirt, was later identified as Hanes. According to court documents, the wound appears to be self-inflicted. He was transported to an El Paso-area hospital where he remains as of Saturday morning.
A brief search for Nelson and the other passenger of the Lexus ended at approximately 5 p.m. Friday when a passerby alerted Doña Ana County Sheriff’s deputies to a pair of men in the 2400 block of Rincon Drive. Those two men were located and taken into custody.
Nelson was subsequently transported to the Doña Ana County Detention Center where he is being held without bond on a fugitive from justice charge.
The third male told investigators he had been picked up by Hanes and Nelson while hitchhiking. He is considered to be a witness in the investigation and is not criminally charged in any of Friday’s incidents.
Officer Chavez, 33, died following surgery at University Medical Center in El Paso just after 8 p.m. Friday. He was a two-year veteran of the Hatch Police Department and a 2013 graduate of the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Department Cadet Law Enforcement Academy.
Saturday morning, his body was transported to the University of New Mexico Office of the Medical Examiner for autopsy under a multi-agency police escort.
The investigation is ongoing.