Sgt. Joe Harris of the Sandoval County Sheriff's Department was…
Updated: Saturday, 18 Jul 2009, 12:17 AM MDT
Published : Friday, 17 Jul 2009, 11:49 PM MDT
BERNALILLO, N.M. (KRQE) - Sgt. Joe Harris and a cornered burglar fought hand-to-hand in the struggle leading to their deaths from gunshot wounds, Sandoval County Sheriff John Paul Trujillo said Friday.
The confrontation that became a gun battle occurred early Thursday morning in a mountain cabin where Harris and a partner were waiting in hopes of catching a burglar who had been plaguing the area around La Cueva for a decade.
When the burglar still only known as the Cookie Bandit broke in the confrontation escalated into gunfire. The suspect and both officers all fired with although it's not yet known who shot the burglar, according to New Mexico State Police.
Harris took a bullet in the upper leg which severed a major artery leading to his death.
On Friday a long procession escorted Harris's body from the Office of the Medical Investigator to a Rio Rancho funeral home this morning. Forensic pathologists autopsied both the veteran lawman and the burglar.
The Cookie Bandit earned his nickname from break-in which often targeted only food and liquor.
Harris and his partner were staking out the cabin hoping to catch the man who had been breaking into homes there for years.
State police say the suspect and the officers *all fired.
It's not clear yet whose bullet killed the burglar.
A bullet fired *by the burglar apparently hit sergeant Harris in the upper leg, severing an artery:
"When things like this happen, you go home and hug your kids a little tighter," Lt. Pete Camacho of the Rio Rancho police said. "You hug your wife a little tighter, and you learn to love more."
Harris retired after 20 years with the Rio Rancho department and
then joined the Sandoval County Sheriff's Department 6 1/2 years