Suspect in NMSP officer’s death served time for prior federal drug charges

Crime

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) – The man suspected of killing a New Mexico State Police officer near Deming was in federal prison as late as 2019. KRQE News 13 has uncovered multiple federal court records showing 39-year-old Omar Felix Cueva pleaded guilty to charges in drug cases in 2002 and 2010.

New Mexico State Police have identified Cueva as the man who shot and killed officer Darian Jarrott Thursday afternoon during an attempted traffic stop on Interstate 10 near Deming. During a news conference Thursday night, New Mexico State Police Chief Robert Thornton spoke of Cueva’s criminal past.

“He had a violent criminal history,” Thornton said. “Nothing was located here in the state of New Mexico, but he does have a violent criminal history to include drug trafficking and some other charges that would rise to the felony level.”

KRQE News 13 has learned Cueva’s criminal past occurred mainly in California. A mugshot provided by New Mexico State Police indicates Cueva was arrested by the San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Office at some point in 2008.

Cueva was also charged in two different drug cases in U.S. Federal Court between 2002 and 2010. The cases were filed in the Southern District of California, which includes the San Diego-area.

According to federal court documents, in October 2002, Cueva was accused of “knowingly and intentionally” importing approximately 37 pounds of cocaine into the United States. Case records indicated Cueva pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced to prison time and supervised release.

Court records show Cueva was charged in federal court again in October 2010. Cueva and two other men were accused of knowingly and intentionally possessing several pounds of meth “with intent to distribute” the drug. Court records show Cueva pleaded guilty in the case, earning a sentence of 10-years in prison in August 2011.

According to the Bureau of Prisons website, Cueva was released from federal custody in August 2019. State Police said Thursday night they believe Cueva lived in the Deming-area and was driving to Las Cruces Thursday with the intention of either buying or selling drugs.

New Mexico State Police say Officer Darian Jarrott was said to have been working with federal agents from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) when he was shot by Cueva. However, it’s unclear if HSI was part of the traffic stop where Jarrott was shot.

“He was conducting a traffic stop, we are aware of that,” Chief Thornton said. “As far as the investigation and what exactly occurred, we’re still sifting through that and trying to figure out exactly what happened, but it was a traffic stop (Jarrott) was on.”

After shooting officer Jarrott, Cueva lead police on a chase that ended on I-10 in Las Cruces. The chase ended when a Las Cruces police officer used a PIT maneuver to stop his truck. Witness video appears to show Cueva got out of his vehicle and shot at police after his truck was stopped. Cueva was killed as police returned gunfire.

NMSP released additional details on Cueva’s criminal history Friday night. His drug criminal history in California includes vandalism, possession of a controlled substance, importation of a controlled substance, importation of cocaine, probation violation, fictitious check; false check; burglary, and possession with intent of crystal meth. The department is expected to release more information about the case next week.

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