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DASO: Man killed by deputy was in mental health crisis


This article contains descriptions of suicide. Immediate help is available by calling the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988.

A man killed by a Doña Ana County Sheriff’s deputy had called 911 before the shooting and suggested he was in a mental health crisis before firing a gun at a deputy, according to information provided in a news conference this week.

Sheriff Kim Stewart identified the man killed in a shooting on June 19 as Michael Christopher Goodheart, 26. Stewart also provided video of the incident and answered questions at a news conference on June 21.

Stewart said Goodheart called 911 and initiated the incident by reporting a drunk driver near one of the Peter Piper Pizza locations in Las Cruces. The call came in around 11:30 p.m. Later, he reveals that he’s making the call on himself.

“He indicates to (the 911 call taker) he’s been drinking since 5 p.m. earlier in the day,” Stewart said. “He goes on to make comments that are reflective of him being in a mental health crisis.”

Around 11:45 p.m., Goodheart told the dispatcher that he needed to be stopped after providing them with a description of his white Dodge Durango car. Stewart was uncertain if he told the dispatcher he had a gun, and it’s unclear if he remained on the line with 911 throughout the one-hour duration of the incident.

Around the same time, Stewart said, the Mesilla Marshals spotted Goodheart near Avenida de Mesilla and Terra Verde Drive. The Marshal began to chase Goodheart, Stewart said, but only briefly before breaking off the chase, losing sight of Goodheart around Young Park in Las Cruces.

At 11:55 p.m., a DASO deputy spots Goodheart near Lohman Avenue and Valley Drive. Stewart said the deputy tried to pull Goodheart over, but Goodheart drove away. Another chase ensued, leading Goodheart and the deputy to the Shalem Colony area west of the Rio Grande. Stewart noted that Goodheart took a varied path to get there, driving around the city until ending up outside Las Cruces.

At this point, Goodheart delivered a final comment to the 911 dispatcher that might be construed as suicidal. Stewart then played a clip of the deputy's dashcam and showed screenshots of the same video. She did not show the actual shooting. However, the stills combined with the video show Goodheart exiting his car, pulling out a gun and firing toward the deputy.

Stewart did not say who fired first or how many rounds were exchanged. She did say that at least one round struck the deputy’s vehicle. Goodheart was also shot at least once. The deputy then called in the shooting and attempted to perform CPR. Goodheart was pronounced dead at a Las Cruces hospital sometime later.

“Generally, if we can engage in conversation, we’re going to engage in conversation first,” Stewart said, noting that it’s not uncommon for deputies to leave a scene if someone is suicidal but not threatening to hurt others.

“Research shows that we (police) escalate those activities,” Stewart said. “The last two years that we’ve been involved in critical incident training, we’ve changed our approach a little bit.”

But that option was not available for the deputy, Stewart said. She referred back to the video and screenshots that showed Goodheart removing and firing his gun at the deputy within a few seconds after leaving his car. Additionally, Stewart said Goodheart had threatened the public’s safety with his erratic driving during the chases in Mesilla and Las Cruces.

“We want to engage with individuals whenever we can. We aren’t always given that scenario,” Stewart said.

The deputy who killed Goodheart was not named in the news conference. However, Stewart said he’s on a five-day administrative leave, which is the typical process following any police shooting.

The shooting is under investigation by the Doña Ana County Officer-Involved Task Force, a group of local detectives that investigate police shootings. The Task Force will provide a report on the incident to the 3rd Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which will determine whether to charge the officer with criminal wrongdoing.

That process can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to months or a year.

shooting, mental health, DASO