Driver leads NMSP officers on wild chase before crash, deadly standoff

Crime

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A shooting investigation in Los Lunas led officers on a wild chase along the interstate, through Albuquerque, and eventually, out by Laguna. After a tense standoff, officers shot and killed the suspect.

A tense chase escalated into a standoff. The suspect led police from Valencia County into Albuquerque as state police took over, continuing onto I-40 west toward Grants for more than half an hour back in October. One close call after another, the suspect’s SUV weaves in and out of traffic.

Officers ahead find a break in traffic and pull out the spike strips. “I got him, I got him,” the officer yells as the SUV flies by.

The driver continues on for almost 15 minutes but it’s a PIT maneuver that does him in near the Laguna exit. Still, he’s not done yet. For minutes, officers were at a standstill, unable to get the driver to surrender peacefully.

“He’s moving, he’s moving,” one officer said, captured via his lapel camera. “He’s got a rifle.”

A Laguna tribal officer steps in to stop him, deploying a non-lethal bean bag to the rear driver’s side window. Seconds later, the driver exchanges gunfire with police. The gunfire stops and they take one more bean bag shot to see if he reacts.

“He’s not moving at all, no movement,” one officer said. “Show us your hands,” another yelled, following the second bean bag shot.

Approaching the car, officers pull a large rifle from it, and the driver, 49-year-old Richard Romero, died on scene. No officers involved in the chase or shootout were injured.

Romero’s criminal record includes a number of felony drug possession charges. Officers spoke with Romero’s parents who said he was acting strangely beforehand. They said they believe mental illness may have played a role.

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