ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) - Of the suspects accused of shooting at deputies and wounding one last week in southeastern New Mexico, one has a violent criminal history while the other could be linked to recent homicides, KRQE News 13 has learned.
Three criminal complaints for one of the shooting suspects outline the violent past of James Gomez. In one case, he was charged with murder. The shooting suspect, Juan Uribe-Vidal is named as a person of interest in recent murders in Chaves County.
Gomez, 22, and Vidal, 25, were arrested last week in Hobbs for shooting roughly 18 rounds at a SWAT team and police. During the shootout, Lea County Sgt. Michael Tovar was hit in the arm and neck.
He was treated and released for his injuries.
Police were at the home in Hobbs on East Everglade serving a search warrant related to two recent murders in Chaves County.
"A search of the residence was done, and we'll just have to sort through what may be related to anything we've got going here," said Lt. Britt Snyder of the Chaves County Sheriff's Office.
On Nov. 10 detectives said a hunter and his son found a man's body near an oil field east of Hagerman.
Two days later a county worker found the body of a man later identified as Mark Walters, 48, of Artesia. Deputies said his body appeared to have been burned. Walters was found off of Buffalo Valley road near Lake Arthur.
"Anytime you find two people murdered within a couple days of each other, you have to wonder if those aren't related," said Snyder. "And we will proceed as if they are related until we can establish that maybe they're not."
The investigation led authorities to Hobbs, where detectives say Vidal is a person of interest in the Chaves County homicides.
Gomez has a violent past. News 13 has learned he was charged with murdering 16-year-old Zachary Perez in 2010. Perez was stabbed multiple times. A jury later let Gomez walk.
Then in March, Gomez was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and battery against a household member. He's accused of hitting and kicking a female and then pointing a gun at witnesses who tried to intervene.
Gomez was out on bond when authorities said he and Vidal shot at police last week when officers tried to serve the search warrant.
According to the criminal complaint, SWAT deployed flash-bang grenades at and RV in Hobbs, and that's when people inside opened fire. Court records allege Gomez told police after the shooting that Vidal was using a rifle to shoot at police.
Gomez stated he fixed the gun after it jammed and also shot at officers, according to the same records.
As they piece the recent crimes together in Chaves County, Snyder said many questions remain, including the identity of the young man found dead last on Nov. 19.
"Generally if they're from here in Chaves County or Roswell, we would think that we would have identified them already," explained Snyder. "And since we haven't, we have to wonder if they are not from other areas."
Investigators are still waiting on the Office of the Medical Investigator to help determine the other victim's identity. Snyder said it is possible he could be from Mexico.
All they know at this point is he appears to be a young, Hispanic male.
Detectives recovered a Cadillac Escalade, registered to Vidal, during the search warrant in Hobbs and will comb through it for evidence. So far, neither Vidal or Gomez have been charged in relation to the murders.
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