By Darrell Todd Maurina
New Mexico State Police Capt. Oscar Gonzalez said Wednesday all proper procedures were followed during a 100-mph car chase Tuesday morning and subsequent apprehension of the driver who fled into Barry Elementary School.
“Our pursuit policy is very basic,” Gonzalez said. “We do have a policy of pursuit in every case where we see a violation of law, but if we feel we will endanger the subject or the public, we will break off pursuit.”
According to court records, Guillermo Gonzales, 22, of Clovis had a criminal complaint filed against him Tuesday by the Clovis Police Department for aggravated assault on a household member.
A report on that incident was not immediately available, but dispatch records indicated that Clovis police received a call at 7:57 a.m. Tuesday that Gonzales had been going to a residence all morning and harassing the caller, and that he had broken the caller’s window two weeks earlier.
A state police press release indicated that Clovis police issued a “be on the lookout” order at 8:05 a.m. and state police officer Lance Bateman spotted the vehicle 13 minutes later on Jefferson Street. When Bateman attempted to stop the vehicle, he reported, a passenger jumped out of the car and fled into a residential area, and the driver then fled at speeds exceeding 100 mph through city streets.
The driver crashed into another vehicle near the corner of Llano Estacado and Thornton, causing minor injuries to the other driver, then fled into Barry Elementary.
Gonzalez said Bateman followed state police policies that require pursuing officers to call dispatch as soon as they see a driver take off.
“The supervisor makes a decision on whether the pursuit will continue; it negates any actions against an officer and helps ensure the safety of the public,” Gonzalez said. “The safety issue is paramount for us.”
The total time from the point the driver fled police to the time he was apprehended inside Barry Elementary was about five minutes, Gonzalez said.
That’s typical for a state police chase, he said.
“They don’t usually take that long unless they get out to the freeway, and then they can go on for miles,” he said.
Gonzalez said as far as he knows, neither his department nor Clovis police have any information on the passenger who bailed out of the car.
“Asking the suspect is almost a moot issue,” Gonzalez said. “They’re in the car with them but they ‘never’ have any knowledge of who is with them.”
The suspect was held in the Curry County Adult Detention Center without bond because he had an outstanding bench warrant for failure to pay $67 in outstanding court costs and fees for an August conviction of criminal trespass. Failure to pay that fine was a violation of the terms of his probation.
He now faces an additional complaint from the state police alleging aggravated fleeing a law enforcement officer; unlawfully carrying a deadly weapon on school premises; resisting, evading or obstructing an officer; reckless driving; driving while license revoked; leaving the scene of a personal injury accident; no insurance; and criminal trespassing.
By itself, the probation violation could lead to the suspect’s incarceration for up to 364 days. Ninth Judicial District Attorney Brett Carter said Tuesday the new state police complaints could lead to a prison term of six years.