A deputy with the New Mexico sheriff’s office has been charged with murder in the shooting death of a fellow deputy in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Santa Fe County Warrant Officer Tai Chan is accused of killing Deputy Jeremy Martin by firing multiple shots at his colleague while Martin was attempting to flee the alcohol-driven argument. Chan is currently in the Dona Ana County Detention Center and is being detained without bond.
The incident occurred after Chan and Martin stopped at the Las Cruces, N.M., Hotel Encanto. The deputies had just completed an eight-hour drive to transfer a prisoner to Safford, Ariz. when they stopped at the hotel to spend the night. According to investigators, Chan, 27, and Martin, 29, visited three different restaurants on Monday night. At one establishment, Dublin’s Street Pub, they drank alcohol and argued heatedly with each other. Once back at the hotel, the altercation escalated.
Officials say that Martin attempted to escape the argument by getting into the elevator on the seventh floor, but was shot in the arms and the back. Police spokesman Dan Trujillo of the Las Cruces police detailed the officers’ arrival on site and their discovery of Martin, lurching out of the elevator and bleeding heavily from several gunshot wounds. Martin was pronounced deceased at MountainView Regional Medical Center in Las Cruces.
Deputy Chan was discovered near the roof of the hotel in a stairwell. He put up no fight as police took him into custody. Also found in the stairwell was what is believed to be Chan’s service weapon – a semi-automatic Glock handgun.
Witnesses reported that they heard an argument followed by multiple gunshots. Some claimed to have seen Chan holding the gun. One guest of the hotel tweeted at 12:32 a.m. that he had been jolted from sleep by six gunshots. Although the hotel was 80 percent full on Monday night, many guests said they had heard nothing during the night and were made aware of what had happened Tuesday morning when they discovered the elevators were closed and made their way to the lobby to find crime-scene tape and tarps blocking off an area near the elevators. Some reported seeing blood by the elevator.
Speaking to the Daily News, Sheriff Robert Garcia described his staff of 120 as very close and in shock. Counselors are on hand at the sheriff’s office to assist personnel in coping with the loss.
Deputy Martin leaves behind his wife of 12 years and three small children aged from 4 to 11. Martin’s widow described her husband as “a great dad, a great husband, a family guy.” She spoke briefly via telephone with the Albuquerque Journal on Tuesday, saying that Sheriff Garcia had come to her home in the early morning to inform her of her husband’s passing.
Deputy Martin had served in the sheriff’s office for two-and-a-half years. Deputy Chan had worked there for three years. The two men did not usually work with each other, but there was no indication that there was any sort of problem between them. Neither men had any disciplinary actions on their records.
John Day, attorney for Chan, had few details as of Tuesday, but called the events “tragic…for everybody involved.” The shooting of Deputy Martin in Las Cruces, N.M., remains under investigation.
By Jennifer Pfalz