Rozanna M. Martinez
Monday marked the eighth fatal shooting by Albuquerque police this year, but this time the confrontation took place in Tucumcari.
The suspect was heavily armed and was involved in a standoff with police for more than six hours.
According to State Police, Daniel Gonzales, 56, was involved in a domestic dispute with his ex-wife about 4 p.m. Monday at a Tucumcari home. The woman and her grandchildren were able to leave the home at some point, but Gonzales stayed inside and only agreed to talk to police officers through a screen door.
Tucumcari police turned the case over to State Police, who in turn asked for assistance from the Albuquerque Police Department SWAT team. Officials said it is not uncommon for Albuquerque SWAT officers to assist State Police and other agencies in certain situations.
Gonzales was shot at about 10:30 p.m. after he threatened officers with two shotguns from the porch of the home.
Albuquerque police have faced criticism for the increase in police-involved shootings this year. So far this year, APD officers have shot 12 people, eight of whom have died. That appears to be the most in the past decade, surpassing the 11 who were shot by APD officers in 2007. There were six policeinvolved shootings last year and five in 2008.
Police Chief Ray Schultz has said it appears many of this year’s cases have involved situations that escalated quickly, giving officers little choice. Many of the cases, Schultz said, involved assaults on the officers.
Schultz said his officers are trained in nonlethal force, including Tasers and beanbag guns, but those tools are not always feasible or appropriate. Police are taught to use equal force, meaning that if a suspect is threatening an officer with a deadly weapon, the officer can use lethal force.
“You’re not going to take a less lethal weapon into a lethal situation,” Schultz said earlier this year.
APD explained Monday’s shooting similarly.
“Officers were assisting (State Police) and found themselves in a deadly force situation when confronted by an armed suspect,” Albuquerque police spokeswoman Sgt. Trish Hoffman said in an e-mail to the Journal.
APD referred further questions to State Police.
Tucumcari police initially responded to the scene but turned the matter over to State Police.
“We knew (Gonzales) was armed and barricaded and he failed to comply with officers,” State Police spokesman Lt. Eric Garcia said. “He had about five rifles and shotguns (combined) and a pistol.”
Gonzales later stepped out onto the home’s porch armed with a shotgun. A short time later, Garcia said, he grabbed a pistol, rifles and ammunition, and pointed the rifle at police officers, who took cover.
After being contacted by State Police, five members of the APD SWAT team responded to the scene, joining more than half a dozen State Police Tactical Team members, according to Garcia. The tactical team is equivalent to APD’s SWAT team.
After trying to negotiate with Gonzales by phone for more than an hour and a half, Gonzales stood at the front door with shotguns in both hands at about 10:30 p.m. and threatened police, Garcia said. An Albuquerque SWAT team member or members fired at Gonzales, killing him.
Gonzales had prior run-ins with the Tucumcari police department: He was charged with two counts of assault and two counts of battery on a household member in April 2005. He also was placed in protective custody four times by Tucumcari police from October 2002 to February 2004, according to Tucumcari police records.
Garcia said the investigation into Monday’s fatal shooting is ongoing. The investigation findings will be submitted to the District Attorney’s Office in Quay County.
Garcia did not release the names of the officer or officers who shot Gonzales or how many shots were fired.
“At the time we wished that no one would get hurt, but sometimes an incident will turn out fatal,” Garcia said.
Garcia said APD’s SWAT team will sometimes assist State Police in situations outside Albuquerque, and so far this year it has assisted State Police in Espanola and in the Grants/Gallup area.
Hoffman said APD has assisted State Police at least five times this year, and State Police has assisted APD as many times. This year, APD also has assisted the Drug Enforcement Administration; Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the FBI and Rio Rancho police.