By Darrell Todd Maurina
A Parmer County grand jury handed down a capital murder indictment Tuesday in what Sheriff Randy Geries believes is the county’s first capital murder case in at least 40 years.
Jose Adam Gomez, 38, of Dumas, Texas, faces either the death penalty or life in prison if convicted of the April 13 death of Friona Police Sgt. Jose Arturo Herrera. According to Geries, Herrera was killed in a car crash 3 miles northeast of Bovina while Gomez was fleeing a high-speed pursuit by officers from the Parmer County Sheriff’s Office and the Bovina and Friona Police Departments.
“What had occurred was there was a chase originating with a suspect inside the city limits of Bovina with officers involved from Parmer County, Bovina, and Friona, who all assisted,” Geries said. “Sgt. Herrera came to assist in this pursuit and was stuck by the suspect’s vehicle. He was in a marked patrol unit and the collision resulted in the death of the police officer.”
Geries said the death of a police officer was what elevated the case to capital murder.
“There have been a few homicides from time to time but none of them that I know were capital murder,” Geries said. “We’ve kept really close tabs on this. It should take some time for the legal system to work because it will now go into lawyers and the trial process, but we are pleased with the indictment.”
Friona Mayor John Taylor said the Friona community had never faced a similar police incident before.
“We’ve wrecked some cars and that kind of thing but we’ve never had a death,” Taylor said. “I think it was probably the right decision on the (district attorney’s) part to file capital murder charge.”
Both Taylor and Geries said the community is trying to be supportive of Herrera’s family and his wife, Rachel.
“They had only been married recently and they have a 2-month-old child, so you can imagine how devastating this was,” Geries said. “I do keep in touch with her and tell her how the case is developing on a regular basis.”
Gomez is in the Randall County Jail in Amarillo.
When arrested at the scene of Herrera’s death, Gomez was facing charges in six Texas and New Mexico counties for what Geries said were mostly theft-related offenses.