By Patrick Lohmann
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A man who shot four law enforcement officers and led scores more on a sprawling police chase through Albuquerque in late October was shot eight times, including four times in the neck and once through his scalp, according to the autopsy report released Tuesday.
Also Tuesday, the department released videos from officers involved in the chase, with sometimes graphic images of the officers as they were shot.
On the morning of Oct. 26, Christopher Chase, 35, dressed in body armor and camouflage and wielding an assault rifle, told witnesses in Southeast Albuquerque to call police and that he was waiting for them. He then fired upon an officer and managed to steal the officer's police cruiser, beginning a 16-mile police pursuit that eventually ended when Chase crumpled in the cruiser against a gas pump at Fourth and Montano NW — all amid gunfire from multiple officers.
Chase had shot three Albuquerque police officers, who received minor injuries, and one Bernalillo County sheriff's deputy, Robin Hopkins, who is undergoing a lengthy recovery for a shattered femur.
The autopsy, released Tuesday by the Office of the Medical Investigator, gives some insight about Chase's final moments. APD officials have not confirmed that they shot Chase, though they did confirm that they shot at him and that he had gunshot wounds when officers pulled him out of the wrecked APD vehicle.
The several hours of video from officers' lapel cameras show a chaotic scene, with at least three dozen shots fired at Fourth and Montano at the end of the chase. Officers can be heard shouting expletives and instructions to each other as they try and comprehend the fast-moving situation. One video shows APD officer Daniel Morales as he gets shot in the leg, and another shows officers discussing how Chase had "half his head blown off" after the dust had settled.
A gruesome shot shows a bloody Chase slumped over the steering wheel, blood splattered over the interior of the car.
Officers can be seen running from vandalism and breaking-and-entering calls all over the city in response to a "shots fired" call blasted over their radios. Adding to the complication was an incorrect address that dispatchers could be heard repeating several times throughout the chase.
Interim Police Chief Allen Banks said a witness told 911 dispatchers that Chase was waiting to ambush officers at Broadway and Cesar Chavez. In fact, Chase was waiting at Broadway and Iron, catching the first responding officer off guard.
Until Tuesday, APD had released little information officially since a short press briefing the day after the shootings. The department had deemed all Journal public records requests about the shooting as "under review."
The autopsy report showed Chase had three gunshot wounds on his neck near his sternum and another from a bullet that entered near the back of his head. Also, a bullet entered Chase's upper back, and he had two more gunshot wounds to his left arm. Chase also had a gunshot wound on his scalp, a "gaping" laceration that measured 6 inches long and 4 inches at its widest point, according to the autopsy.
Chase, who had "Cop killer" tattooed across his knuckles, had no drugs in his system, the OMI found. The investigator tested for marijuana, methamphetamines, cocaine and opiates.
Investigators also did not appear to find anything else irregular about Chase physically. All indicators, from the surface of his diaphragm to cardiovascular system, appeared normal, according to the report.
Investigators commented several times throughout the 27-page report that Chase's brain was "extensively lacerated" from at least two of the shots, preventing them from tracing the trajectories of individual bullets.
In addition to the gunshot wounds, Chase also sustained blunt-force injuries to his head and upper left arm, the report found.
APD spokeswoman Tasia Martinez said Tuesday the shooting is still under investigation, and the department is waiting on the results of ballistics tests to determine how many officers fired and who they were.
"We do not know how many officers fired their weapons yet," Martinez said in a text message.
Martinez did say that six officers were placed on leave after the shooting, a standard practice for officer-involved shootings. The department did not respond to questions about the officers' names or how long they were on leave.
Martinez said the autopsy will be included in the completed case report. She couldn't say when the department's investigation might be completed.
Copyright 2014 the Albuquerque Journal
McClatchy-Tribune News Service