Curry County Sheriff Roger Hatcher and law enforcement officers look for evidence outside of Tucker Auto Sales where owner J. C. Tucker died Thursday night. Hatcher said he is treating the case as if it were a homicide. FREEDOM NEWSPAPERS Mike Linn
Darrell Todd Maurina
A Clovis business owner was found dead and two fast-food restaurants were robbed within a 25-minute time frame late Thursday night, but officials said they did not know if the death is related to the robberies.
Clovis police said they were searching for a single suspect in a white Chevrolet pickup about midnight; he’s believed to have robbed the McDonald’s on Mitchell Street and the Long John Silver’s on Mabry Drive with a handgun.
Police said they did not know if the robbery suspect could have been involved in the death, which occurred west of town.
Curry County Sheriff Roger Hatcher identified the dead man as J.C. Tucker, 60, owner of Tucker Auto Sales and Tucker Self Storage at 1632 U.S. Highway 60-84 West.
Hatcher said Tucker’s daughter and girlfriend found Tucker’s body at the business after he failed to come home from work.
“At this point we can’t see a visible wound, but there is a lot of blood,” Hatcher said. “We are treating it as a homicide until it is proven otherwise.”
Hatcher said Tucker’s body will be sent to Albuquerque for an autopsy. The sheriff said he did not know when Tucker died.
The crime spree began just after 10 p.m. as police were changing shifts.
“Fortunately it happened at a time when we had two shifts available,” Police Sgt. James Schoeffel said. “If it had happened at any other time we would have been jumping through hoops.”
Schoeffel said the first incident, at McDonald’s, was reported at 10:10 p.m. Police responded to the robbery at Long John Silver’s at 10:23 p.m. The Curry County Sheriff’s Department received the death report at 10:35 p.m.
Police said the robbery suspect was spotted running south after the Long John Silver’s robbery. Officials stopped Burlington Northern-Santa Fe train traffic for at least an hour while they searched for the suspect with dogs.
He was described as a 5-foot-7-inch Hispanic male wearing all black clothes and a hooded jacket with a white bandana around his face and mouth.
Schoeffel said officers began patrolling “major, high-traffic businesses, the movie theater, convenience stores … any businesses that have an exchange of cash,” after the second robbery was reported.
Schoeffel said no injuries were reported during the robberies.
All three of Thursday incidents occurred within five hours after police made a presentation to Clovis city commissioners asking for higher wages in hopes of addressing staff shortages.
A petition organizers said was signed by about 800 residents declared Clovis “one of the most dangerous places in the state to live” because it does not have enough police.
“We (police) have not been able to serve (Clovis citizens) efficiently for some time and have reached a point where we can no longer serve them effectively,” the petition reads.
While the Clovis area has had a series of armed robberies since mid-June, the last homicide occurred more than six months ago.
Three people were killed in two unrelated incidents on Feb. 28.
CNJ Staff Writer Jack King contributed to this report.