Alleged shooter of NM officer faces additional federal charges
Jesse Denver Hanes was charged with first-degree murder Saturday and faced federal firearm and carjacking charges Tuesday
By Carlos Andres López
Las Cruces Sun-News
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — The Ohio fugitive suspected in the murder of Hatch Police Officer Jose Chavez is now facing federal firearm and carjacking charges on top of state charges that had been previously filed, the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Mexico announced Tuesday.
Jesse Denver Hanes, 38, was charged Saturday with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Chavez, 33, according to a criminal complaint filed in Doña Ana County Magistrate Court.
Federal prosecutors on Tuesday filed a separate criminal complaint in U.S. District Court in Las Cruces, charging Hanes, of Columbus, Ohio, with carjacking resulting in serious bodily injury; discharging a firearm during a violent crime; and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Hanes was arrested Tuesday on the federal charges at University Medical Center in El Paso, where he was said to be recuperating from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his thigh. His initial appearance in federal court in Las Cruces has yet to be scheduled, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Doña Ana County sheriff's deputies took Hanes into custody late Friday afternoon, following a violent crime spree that began in the village of Hatch, where Chavez, a two-year veteran of the Hatch Police Department, had pulled over the 1991 silver Lexus that Hanes was driving.
At the time of the traffic stop on Franklin Street, Hanes had two passengers in the vehicle: James Nelson, 36, also of Columbus, Ohio, and Tony Marcell Jones, 44, who has been described by authorities as a hitchhiker.
It remains unclear whether Chavez knew that Hanes and Nelson were wanted in Ohio on murder charges for the July 25 shooting death of a 62-year-old man on the outskirts of Chillicothe, Ohio.
During the traffic stop, authorities allege Hanes reached through the front passenger window and shot Chavez with a .45-caliber handgun. Chavez, who was supposed to be off duty Friday, later died after undergoing surgery at UMC in El Paso.
A second Hatch police officer, who had been called to assist Chavez during the traffic stop, fired three shots at the Lexus as it fled from the scene, authorities said. A third officer pursued the Lexus south on Interstate 25, reaching speeds of more than 100 mph, before losing sight of the vehicle.
The court documents filed in Magistrate Court suggest the Lexus may have exited the highway somewhere in the Rincon area, less than 10 miles south of Hatch.
Several residents of Rincon told sheriff's detectives that they had seen two men -- one white and one black who was pulling a large suitcase -- arguing with a white man who was driving a silver vehicle. One witness said the driver was "yelling" at the men "to get back in (the vehicle) or he would leave them," according to the court documents.
A 9-year-old child told authorities that he was coming from school when he saw the white and black men standing in the 200 block of Kingman Street. The boy said the men were arguing with the driver of the gray vehicle.
"At some point he (the driver) got out and all three men were standing outside the car and he heard gunshots," the boy's statement read. "He ran inside to tell his mother what happened and when he came back out, he saw a white man chasing the gray car as it drove away."
The federal court documents say that when Nelson and Jones walked away from the Lexus, Nelson heard a gunshot and turned around to see that Hanes had shot himself in the "leg/groin area" for some unknown reason. Hanes then drove off, alone, in the Lexus.
He drove south on I-25 and pulled into the Fort Seldon rest stop near Radium Springs, where he exited the vehicle and approached two individuals, brandishing a handgun and demanding the keys to their car, according to the documents. They each refused, and Hanes "quickly walked away."
He then approached a third individual, and demanded the keys to a red Chevrolet Cruze while pointing a handgun. The federal criminal complaint does not name the third individual, but the victim is identified as Angel Flores in the Magistrate Court records.
Hanes is suspected of shooting Flores in the "leg area" after Flores handed him the keys to his rented Chevrolet but refused to get in the vehicle.
Authorities said Hanes then fled from the rest stop, leading deputies on another chase. The chase came to end when the vehicle's tires were deflated in the 23000 block of N.M. 185. Hanes initially refused to obey commands, according to the federal complaint, but was eventually taken into custody around 5 p.m. Friday.
Not long after, Nelson and Jones were arrested in the 2400 block of Rincon Avenue, authorities said. They now face drug charges and remain in custody at the Doña Ana County Detention Center.
After Hanes was taken into custody, a .45-caliber Kimber handgun, believed to be used by Hanes to shoot Chavez and Flores, was recovered from the Chevrolet, according the federal complaint. As a convicted felon, Hanes is prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition.
Flores was taken to UMC for treatment after being shot, but his condition as of Tuesday was unknown. The FBI agent who filed the criminal complaint indicated in his affidavit that both Flores and Hanes were expected to survive their injuries.
If convicted as charged in the federal criminal complaint, Hanes faces a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for unlawfully possessing a firearm and 25 years for the carjacking charge. If convicted for discharging a firearm during the carjacking, he faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, which must be served consecutive to any sentence imposed on the other charges.
If convicted of murder in the state case, Hanes faces life in prison.