DA reviewing police shooting report

JaWayne Helfferich, 39, was shot by a Texas officer after a police chase in November.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

A months-long investigation into the shooting of a Clovis man after a police chase by Texas officers is now in the hands of the district attorney’s office.

District Attorney Matt Chandler said Thursday morning his office received findings of a three-month New Mexico State Police investigation into the pursuit and shooting of JaWayne Helfferich by a Texas Department of Safety trooper.

The report will be reviewed to look for, “any unlawful acts that took place in Curry County,” Chandler said.

“We were briefed on it for about three hours (Thursday). It’s a very extensive report and we plan on reviewing it over the next couple of days and determining if any charges will be filed.”

At issue is whether the pursuit and shooting by Texas officers violated any New Mexico or local laws.

Police have said Helfferich, 39, led Texas law enforcement from three departments on a 40-mile pursuit into northern Curry County after fleeing from a traffic stop near Friona on Nov. 8.

Helfferich’s 1996 Ford Explorer collided with an officer’s vehicle on Curry Road 21, police said. Police say Helfferich, then turned around and drove back toward the officer, who got out of his disabled patrol unit.

The officer, identified as Joel Rejino, “fired shots when he perceived eminent threats of the Explorer being driven closely to him,” according to police.

Helfferich’s 66-year-old mother was a passenger in the vehicle during the pursuit and was uninjured.

Police have said Helfferich was unarmed.

Chandler said the review will seek to determine if further investigation is warranted or if charges should be filed by state police.

He said he anticipates by the middle of next week he will have a better understanding of where the case stands.

A spokesman for the state police declined comment on the case.

Helfferich said Thursday he is still recovering from his wounds.

Shot five times in the arms and neck, he said he has nerve damage in his throat and mouth, has limited use of his arms, and is undergoing physical therapy.

Helfferich said he still has several bullet fragments in his body that doctors either couldn’t or didn’t want to remove for fear of causing further damage.

“This has been a journey I would not want to take again,” he said. “It was not fun whatsoever.”

Helfferich declined to comment further on the shooting or the pursuit, citing a pending civil case.

At the time of the pursuit, Helfferich was driving on a suspended license and had an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

Texas authorities charged him with evading arrest or detention in a motor vehicle.

Helfferich was released on a personal bond following the shooting, according to family members.