2 arrested in N.M. pursuit; injured officer tackled fleeing suspect

By Henry M. Lopez
The Santa Fe New Mexican

Police arrested a Santa Fe man and woman following a car chase that wound through city streets and ended in a foot pursuit after the man allegedly drove a stolen car into a police cruiser.

Police charged Robert Torres, 32, and Erica Duran, 26, with two counts of possessing stolen vehicles, conspiracy and resisting officers. Torres also faces charges of battery of a police officer and driving on a suspended license, said Deputy Police Chief Stan Mascareñas.

The chase began after an officer spotted a stolen gray Toyota Corolla that an assailant reportedly fled in after robbing a woman Friday outside the Albertsons grocery at DeVargas Center, Mascareñas said.

After a patrol officer responding to an unrelated call on Camino de Guadalupita saw the car parked near a second Corolla that had been reported stolen, Torres jumped into it and drove away at "a high rate of speed," Mascareñas said.

Police and sheriff's deputies who joined the pursuit chased the car from the area near Larragoite Elementary School through residential streets, then along Cerrillos Road and back to Agua Fría via Henry Lynch Road. Duran was in the passenger seat, Mascareñas said.

Torres drove the car down the driveway of Plants of the Southwest, a nursery near the San Ysidro Crossing, Mascareñas said. When he reached a dead end, Torres threw the car into reverse and slammed the car into a patrol car driven by Officer James Vigil, Mascareñas said.

One of Vigil's knees was injured in the crash, but he was able to chase and tackle Torres, who ran from the wreck, the deputy chief said. Duran was apprehended by officers who were following Vigil, Mascareñas said.

"(Vigil) did a good thing," Mascareñas said. "All of the officers and deputies played a major role. They were very professional."

Mascareñas said he did not know the speeds the chase reached. A police "pursuit committee" will review the chase, he said, since department policy requires officers to weigh the hazards a chase poses to civilian drivers against the potential danger posed by the suspect.

Because Torres and Duran were being sought in connection with a "violent crime" -- the robbery at DeVargas Center -- officers continued the pursuit, Mascareñas said.

Details of the 2 p.m. robbery were still under investigation, and the deputy chief provided no details except the victim said her assailant had a handgun.

Contact Henry M. Lopez

at 995-3815 or .
1. A medic talks with Robert Torres, 32, a Santa Fe resident who, along with a female passenger, was arrested Friday on charges of fleeing police and crashing a stolen car into a police cruiser in the parking lot of Plants of the Southwest, a nursery on Agua Fría Street. Police are investigating the pair in connection with a robbery at DeVargas Center earlier in the day.

Copyright 2006 The New Mexican

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