By Chris Quintana
The Santa Fe New Mexican
LAS VEGAS, N.M. — Recently released police video shows that a man from upstate New York State kept trying to flee from New Mexico state police in his white minivan even after leading them on an 8-minute chase in the wrong direction on Interstate 25 and flipping his van just south of Las Vegas, N.M.
Albert Urban, 72, of Hamburg, N.Y., only stopped after state police Officer Jonathan Wright shot Urban in the arm as he drove toward the officer, the police dashboard camera footage shows.
The footage and reports detailing the Jan. 4 incident, which were recently obtained by The New Mexican, paint the clearest picture yet of the chase.
Richard Flores, district attorney in San Miguel County, announced last week that he had cleared Wright of criminal charges. Flores also said that he would not press criminal charges against Urban due to the man's poor mental health.
The incident began when state police received reports of a driver traveling north in the southbound lanes just south of Las Vegas. The video starts with officer Jonathan Wright and Raymond Montoya getting into a police cruiser and zooming at speeds as high as 129 mph on I-25 to reach the minivan.
Wright later told an investigating officer multiple times that he feared Urban would cause a crash and seriously injure or kill another motorist.
About 7 minutes into the footage, the viewer first sees Urban's vehicle whiz past Wright's cruiser. The officer immediately makes a U-turn and starts the 8-minute chase. Wright twice uses a loud speaker to demand that Urban pull over. But if Urban hears the commands, he doesn't obey.
The video clearly shows northbound drivers passing the chase or pulling to the shoulder.
Documents state that officers also tried to stop Urban's vehicle by using spike strips. The first attempt failed, but the second was more successful and blew out Urban's right front tire.
After the second spike strip, Wright pulls alongside Urban and nudges the van, sending it off the road. Dashboard camera footage from another officer's car shows that Urban tried to correct the van's direction, but the vehicle rolled and came to a temporary stop. Video then shows the two officers get out of their car and approach the van. Wright wrote in his report that he thought the vehicle would be disabled after it rolled.
Instead, Urban hit the gas and drove the van in the officers' general direction, prompting Wright to fire four shots at the 72-year-old man. One hit the man's arm, and that bullet, multiple reports and video indicate, finally stopped Urban.
Wright later told investigating officers that he fired because "he feared that being struck by the van would result in death or great bodily harm." Urban was treated on the scene for his injuries, and emergency responders ultimately transported him via helicopter to University Hospital in Albuquerque.
Officer Mark Alsfeld wrote in his report that when he interviewed Urban in the hospital, he "rambled" and couldn't answer questions. Alsfeld also wrote that Urban thought he was in New York during the interviews and told the officer that his "mind don't work as good as it used to." Alsfeld also interviewed family members and friends of Urban in New York, who indicated Urban had not been taking his medication. No one could explain why Urban was in New Mexico, but multiple people told Alsfeld that Urban had family in Arizona.
Alsfeld wrote that Urban's brother wasn't surprised by the incident. His brother also told Alsfeld that he tried to stop him from traveling, but Urban refused.
"In my mind, honestly, I could totally see this happening," the brother told Alsfeld.
Urban underwent a mental evaluation at the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute, and, according to a release from Flores, the examination found that Urban had been suffering from "a cognitive disorder." The same release stated that Urban would be released to his family in New York.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2014 The Santa Fe New Mexican