Men arrested in fatal shooting of NM officer appear in court
James Nelson and Marcell Jones appeared in court Monday for their connection in the fatal shooting of Police Officer Jose Chavez
By Carlos Andres López
Las Cruces Sun-News
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Two men arrested Friday in connection with the slaying of Hatch Police Officer Jose Chavez appeared in Doña Ana County Magistrate Court on Monday.
James Nelson, 36, of Columbus, Ohio, and Tony Marcell Jones, 44, of Hannibal, Missouri, made their first court appearances before Judge Richard Jacquez via video from the Doña Ana County Detention Center.
Nelson and Jones were taken into custody Friday after they were detained by Doña Ana County sheriff's deputies in the Rincon area.
According to court documents filed Monday, Nelson and Jones were passengers in the 1991 silver Lexus that was driven by Jesse Hanes, 38, of Columbus, Ohio, who is suspected of fatally shooting Chavez, 33, on Friday afternoon during a traffic stop in Hatch, a village about 40 miles north of Las Cruces.
Chavez, a two-year veteran of the Hatch Police Department, died late Friday after undergoing surgery at University Medical Center in El Paso.
Both men, who gave statements to FBI agents, said they had been asleep in the Lexus when Hanes "announced" that they were being pulled over by a police officer.
The traffic stop occurred around 3:40 p.m. on Franklin Street, near a convenience store, according to court records.
Nelson said Chavez, who approached the Lexus from the front passenger window, had instructed Hanes to exit the vehicle after asking for registration paperwork.
"(Nelson) said Hanes then raised a .45 caliber compact handgun toward the officer standing at the passenger side window and fired a single shot," the court documents state.
Moments before the gunshot, a second Hatch police officer, Raymond Lazos, who had been called to assist Chavez with the traffic stop, said he saw Chavez reach for his duty weapon and move backward, as the passengers in the back and front seats, later identified as Jones and Nelson, took cover when the shot was fired.
Chavez fell backward, hitting the ground, Lazos said, and the Lexus sped off, heading east on Franklin Street.
Jones, a hitchhiker who had been picked up by Hanes and Nelson, said Hanes then drove onto Interstate 25 and exited the roadway at an unknown location, where all three had gotten out of the vehicle.
"Jones said he heard a gunshot and saw Hanes had shot himself," the court documents state. "Hanes reportedly ordered Jones to get back into the car, but Jones refused and Hanes got in and fled the scene alone in the vehicle."
Kelly Jameson, a spokeswoman for the Doña Ana County Sheriff's Office, which is investigating the shooting and related incidents, said Monday that detectives are still trying to determine where the three men initially stopped after the shooting and when they parted ways.
Based on the preliminary investigation, Jameson said, it appears that Hanes was alone when he arrived at a rest stop near Radium Springs, where he allegedly carjacked a red Chevrolet Cruze and shot the driver of that vehicle.
According the court documents, the victim of the carjacking, identified as Angel Flores, said a man had demanded his car keys and ordered him to get in the vehicle. Flores, who was unable to describe the man to authorities, said he handed over the keys, but refused to get in the vehicle -- and that's when he said he was shot in the hip. Flores was said to be in stable condition as of Saturday.
Following a pursuit with dozens of law enforcement officers, Hanes was arrested in the 23000 block of N.M. 185. Nelson and Jones were on foot when they were arrested by sheriff's deputies in the 2400 block of Rincon Avenue.
Doña Ana County authorities later learned that Hanes and Nelson were fugitives who are wanted in Ohio on murder charges.
In the shooting death of Chavez, Hanes was initially charged with an open count of murder, but on Monday, he was formally charged with first-degree murder. He remained hospitalized as of Monday. It was not immediately known when he would appear before a judge.
Jones and Nelson also were formally charged on Monday, court records show. They are each facing drug charges. Neither are charged in Chavez's death.
Jones is charged with possession of methamphetamine and paraphernalia, a fourth-degree felony. When Jones was arrested, Jameson said, he was in possession of a large suitcase that was later found to filled with "a large amount of methamphetamine."
During Monday's hearings before Jacquez, Jones pleaded not guilty to the charge through a public defender.
When addressing bond, the public defender asked for Jones to be released from jail on his own recognizance, arguing that he has been charged with a low-level felony and that the previously set bond of $100,000 was excessive given the charge.
But Chief Deputy District Attorney Gerald Byers asked for Jones' bond to remain the same, saying that he is flight risk and a danger. Byers indicated that Jones may have been involved in other crimes with Hanes and Nelson, including bank robberies in several states.
After hearing the arguments, Jacquez set Jones' bond at $75,000 secured.
Nelson, meanwhile, was charged late Monday afternoon with trafficking by possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, a second-degree felony, and distribution of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, a fourth-degree felony. He was initially charged only with being a fugitive from justice.
Jacquez said Nelson will be "held on the local charges" until they are resolved. After that, he will be extradited to Ohio to face the murder charge.
Nelson did not enter a plea to the charges since the criminal complaint was filed late Monday. He is expected to make another court appearance on Tuesday. He is being held on no-bond status.