SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Santa Fe Police Officer Robert Duran and an uninvolved citizen identified as Frank Lovato died in a crash Wednesday on I-25 near Santa Fe. The crash involved at least four vehicles; two Santa Fe Patrol Units, the fleeing vehicle, and an uninvolved vehicle.
Officer Robert Duran was 43-years-old and had been with the Santa Fe Police Department since 2015. Frank Lovato was 62-years-old from Las Vegas, New Mexico. He was retired from the Las Vegas Fire Department.
Santa Fe Police Department says that around 11:06 a.m., a kidnapping in progress was reported to the Regional Emergency Dispatch Center at the Rancho Vizcaya Apartments. The man armed with a knife took a vehicle that was occupied by a woman.
One neighbor in the apartment complex says she was home all day, even taking her dog out right before the incident. “That’s pretty scary to think that person could be anywhere on the loose and nearby. It’s pretty shocking,” she said.
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Then, around 11:14 a.m. SFPD located the vehicle near Sawmill Road and St. Francis Drive. Officer attempted to stop the vehicle, however, the suspect fled the area in the vehicle. The suspect traveled onto I-25 at St. Francis Drive and headed northbound in the southbound lanes.
The crash occurred at mile marker 286 in the northbound lane of I-25. A Santa Fe Police Officer and uninvolved motorist died in the crash. The woman who was kidnapped by the suspect was able to flee the vehicle and was transported to a nearby hospital.
Law enforcement is still looking for the suspect since he fled the scene after the crash. According to witnesses, the male suspect was described as wearing a red shirt, black pants, and a black jacket.
Santa Fe Deputy Police Chief Ben Valdez was emotional talking about losing one of their own. “We know everyone’s name, we know their family as well, and you know when we say that officer and their family is part of our family, that holds true today. And today our family is hurting,” Valdez said.
Jolene Duran says she and her husband were driving north on I-25 around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday when they looked up and saw about five police cars chasing the white car. They were all driving the wrong way down the interstate.
“In that moment, it was just terror. It was really just shocking to look up and see a vehicle driving the wrong way on the highway at all and then also seeing the police cars behind them. It was pretty easy to figure out what happened,” said Duran.
Still shaken by the incident, she says she’s thinking of crash victims who didn’t make it home to their families. “It’s just really sad to see how that ended. Because we became very close to being in the same situation,” Duran said.
Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber says he appreciates the help and support from law enforcement across the state. “I think anytime one public safety agency loses an officer, everyone loses an officer and they’re here to work collaboratively to respond to this tragedy and to work together,” Webber said.
Mayor Webber says it has been decades since the Santa Fe Police Department lost an officer.