ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office says a domestic violence suspect slipped out of handcuffs, ran, then wrestled with deputies before he was fatally shot earlier this month. Showing police body camera and witness video of the incident during a news conference Monday, the department says the suspect was attempting to force a deputy to the ground when a second deputy shot and killed the suspect.
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The shooting happened on a Tuesday night around 9 p.m. on December 7 in the parking lot of the Las Mañanitas apartment complex near Coors and Montaño. BCSO Deputy Dereck Gallegos shot two rounds, killing 41-year old Mario Armando Diaz. Gallegos has been with BCSO for three years and hasn’t been involved in any prior deputy shooting cases.
Deputies were investigating Diaz on suspicion of battery. Their involvement began after a 911 call came in around 8:15 p.m. A victim called to report a prior domestic violence incident that occurred around 7:15 p.m. in the parking lot of an Allsup’s gas station near Coors and Blake Road SW.
BCSO says two deputies arrived at the victim and suspect’s shared apartment around 9:01 p.m., before the suspect arrived home. Around 9:17 p.m. the suspect was arrested at the front entryway of the apartment, having arrived home as deputies were there investigating.
About fifteen minutes after being taken into custody, BCSO says squad car surveillance video shows Diaz slipped one of his hands out of handcuffs while in the back seat. That happened after deputies had removed, then reattached cuffs to Diaz’s hands to take off a backpack he was initially wearing at the beginning of his arrest.
“At some point, (deputies) had to removed one of those initial cuffs to take the backpack off, to properly secure (Diaz,)” said Captain Nicholas Huffmyer of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office. “It could have very well been at that point that when the cuff was reattached it wasn’t tight enough, it’s difficult to know for certain.”
With one hand free, video shows Diaz forced his way out of the back of the deputy’s car, running through the apartment complex parking lot. As Deputy Gallegos ran after Diaz, attempting to detain him a second time, a second deputy, Taylor Feist began chasing after the two. Feist was initially inside an apartment with the victim when the chase began.
Video shows deputies used a taser to attempt to stop Diaz, who eventually overpowered deputy Taylor Fiest. A witness captured video of the altercation before the shooting.
“Deputy Gallegos is seated behind the suspect, the suspect is facing away from him and is actively engaged with Deputy Feist, and has her by the hair, up around the neck area, and head, and is trying to take her over to the left-side and force her down into the pavement,” said Capt. Huffmyer, describing his take on the witness video. “At no point in time during the altercation does he ever stop physically fighting.”
Moments before the shooting, the Feist can be heard saying, in part, “don’t touch me,” “no,” and “get off,” while the suspect can be heard saying, in part, “let me go,” “I got you,” and “I didn’t do nothing.” Feist can be heard saying “gun” multiple times before Deputy Gallegos fires two shots.
“It’s …. not entirely garbled, as best we’re able to determine, it sounds like she says, ‘my gun,’ ‘my gun’s gone,’ or ‘he’s got my gun,’ it’s hard to tell because the muffling of the microphone rubbing against the clothing and other things during the altercation,” Huffmyer said. “In response to that, Deputy Gallegos responds accordingly, consistent with his training, fearing that his partner might have been disarmed, or that there is now a gun involved in the fight that the offender might have.”
BCSO says it’s unclear if Diaz ever disarmed the deputy. The case remains under investigation by the Multi-Agency Taskforce.