By Roger Lanse
(Aug. 25, 2014) On Friday, Aug. 22, at about 3:53 p.m. a New Mexico Motor Transportation Department officer attempted to pull over a red Honda Civic in Hidalgo County near Road Forks, at Mile Marker 30 on State Highway 80, according to Lt. Emmanuel Gutierrez, New Mexico State Police Public Information Officer. Other law enforcement officers told the Grant County Beat the stop was probably attempted because of a traffic violation, either following too close or for excessive speed.
According to an arrest report, the Honda refused to pull over and led several law enforcement agencies, including the New Mexico Motor Transportation Department, Lordsburg Police Department, Deming Police Department, the Grant County and Luna County sheriff's departments and the NMSP, in pursuit north on SH 80, east on I-10 through Lordsburg and Deming, and north on U.S. 180E. Speeds reached near 110 miles per hour.
Stop sticks were employed on U.S. 180E near Hurley at Mile Marker 130, the arrest report stated, which the driver avoided, but he did hit stop sticks deployed at Mile Marker 126. As NMSP officer Daniel Soliz was deploying another set of stop sticks at Mile Marker 123, the red Honda swerved to avoid those stop sticks and the officer had to run from the back of his car into some trees to avoid being hit by the vehicle. The vehicle was able to be stopped near Mile Marker 122, near Bayard when NMSP Sgt. Milton Jensen employed a precision immobilization technique (PIT) maneuver.
According to Gutierrez, the driver of the Honda, Luis Betancourt, 18, of Phoenix, was arrested by Grant County Sheriff's deputies and charged with aggravated assault on a peace officer and aggravated fleeing from a peace officer. Betancourt was booked into the Grant County Detention Center. Two female passengers in the Honda were handed over to the U.S. Border Patrol, Gutierrez said.
A second man in the red Honda fled from the vehicle after the PIT-maneuver. This man, later identified as Alberto Rodriguez, 27, of Nogales, Mexico, was taken into custody following a car and foot chase by NMSP officers. Although being commanded to stop, Rodriguez continued to walk away until an officer tased him. He was then handcuffed and placed under arrest for resisting, evading and obstructing an officer. Rodriguez was also booked into the Grant County Detention Center.
Betancourt was arraigned in Grant County Magistrate Court, Monday morning, Aug. 25.
Alcohol or drugs were not thought to be a factor in the event, and no injuries were reported, Gutierrez said.
An unofficial report of a law enforcement vehicle colliding with a civilian vehicle during the pursuit on U.S. 180E, causing some injuries, could not be confirmed. The agencies alleged to be involved told the Grant County Beat that they could not comment because the investigation was not yet complete.