New Mexico State Police Officer Is Shot and Killed, Officials Say


A driver who had been stopped on a New Mexico highway shot and killed a State Police officer on Thursday and then led officers on a roughly 40-mile chase before his pickup truck was rammed by the police and he was fatally shot, the authorities said.

The violence began when the State Police officer, Darian Jarrott, pulled over the driver of a white pickup truck as part of a homeland security investigation on Interstate 10 near Akela, about 40 miles west of Las Cruces, N.M., the police said.

The driver, Omar Felix Cueva, had been heading by himself from Deming, N.M., to Las Cruces to engage in a “drug buy,” the police said. Mr. Cueva fired at least one shot at Officer Jarrott, killing him, the police said. Mr. Cueva, who had been wearing a bulletproof vest, then drove off, heading east on the highway, according to Roxanne Garcia-McElmell, a spokeswoman for the Doña Ana County District Attorney’s Office.


After another State Police officer found Mr. Cueva’s truck on the highway, Mr. Cueva pulled over near an exit and fired on officers, who returned fire, the State Police said. Officers chased Mr. Cueva farther east on Interstate 10, and placed tire-puncturing strips on the highway, the police said.

When Mr. Cueva reached Las Cruces, pursued by officers from multiple agencies, a Las Cruces police officer sideswiped Mr. Cueva’s truck with his police cruiser, forcing the truck to stop, officials said. Mr. Cueva got out of his truck and fired multiple times at the officers, who fired back, striking Mr. Cueva at least once and killing him, the State Police said. A Las Cruces officer was shot in the arm during the exchange, according to Ms. Garcia-McElmell. He was treated at a hospital and released, she said.

The State Police chief, Robert Thornton, said that Officer Jarrott, 28, had begun his career as a transportation inspector with the New Mexico Department of Public Safety and had been certified as a law enforcement officer in 2014. In July 2015, he was sworn in as a New Mexico State Police officer. He was a father of three young children and was expecting a fourth child this year, Chief Thornton said.

“It’s a huge loss to us,” Chief Thornton said at a news conference. “Officer Darian Jarrott went out there today and was serving his state, his community, the best way he knew how. And I love him for that.”

Chief Thornton said that Mr. Cueva, 39, had a criminal history that included charges of drug trafficking.


A local television station, KVIA, posted a bystander’s video showing a police cruiser slamming into the side of a white pickup truck and pushing it on the highway until both vehicles finally come to a stop. As sirens wail, the driver gets out of the pickup and points what appears to be a gun at the cruiser, and a volley of shots can be heard. Officers with guns drawn then surround the driver, who is lying on the ground.


Interstate 10 was closed after the shooting, and the authorities warned drivers to avoid the area.

Credit…New Mexico State Police

It was the first fatal shooting of a New Mexico State Police officer in the line of duty since 1991, when Patrolman Glen Huber was killed while trying to serve a restraining order, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit organization that honors fallen law enforcement officers. In 2001, Patrolman Lloyd Aragon was struck by a fleeing driver’s vehicle and killed while laying tire-puncturing spike strips on I-40 at the eastbound exit to Route 6 between Grants, N.M., and Albuquerque.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico said that flags in the state would be lowered to half-staff from Friday to Tuesday in honor of Officer Jarrott.

“I am shocked, heartbroken and enraged by the loss of this public servant,” Ms. Grisham said. “I am praying for the local officer who was also shot and injured.”


Ms. Grisham said that while the authorities were investigating what had happened, “what we know right now is a New Mexico law enforcement officer has been killed in the line of duty and I am horrified as we grieve another life cut down, another family crushed by senseless violence in our state.”

“Violent crime is a scourge on New Mexico, and the men and women who step up and put on the badge to protect our communities fight it with everything they’ve got every day,” she said.

The shooting came one day after a Las Cruces police officer was injured while trying to arrest a man who had been stopped for speeding and driving erratically.

The man, Joel Orozco, refused to get out of his truck and drove off, dragging an officer who had reached inside the truck’s open door to try to stop Mr. Orozco from putting the truck into gear, the police said.

Another officer fired at least one shot as Mr. Orozco, 28, crossed a median and drove through a large utility pole, the police said. Mr. Orozco and two passengers then ran away before Mr. Orozco was arrested and charged with aggravated battery upon a peace officer and other charges, the police said.


The injured officer remained hospitalized on Thursday with a broken leg, the police said. A woman who was in Mr. Orozco’s truck was in critical condition.

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