Former fire chief pleads to five counts
April 17, 2019
A former Tucumcari fire chief on Tuesday pleaded no contest in district court to five criminal counts — three of them felonies — from a 2017 case in which he was accused of drugging and sexually assaulting a city employee and embezzling city funds.
Shane Warner, 42, who now lives in Clovis, agreed in a 10th Judicial District courtroom to plead no contest to assault with intent to commit a violent felony (second- or third-degree criminal sexual penetration), attempt to commit a felony (extortion), felony tampering with evidence, misdemeanor resisting, evading or obstructing a police officer and misdemeanor embezzlement of over $250.
In exchange, Warner would serve a suspended sentence of 9? years except for time served, followed by two years of parole. He also would be placed on five years of supervised probation at a level deemed appropriate by the probation officer. Warner would be evaluated for treatment needs, including for sex-offender treatment, and must follow those recommendations. He also would be required to pay restitution of $2,000 to the city of Tucumcari and avoid contact with the victim. He is not required to pay restitution to the victim; she settled her claims in civil court.
The pact also would require Warner to make a $100 donation to the Quay County Domestic Violence Program and submit a DNA sample to the New Mexico Department of Corrections.
Charges of distribution of a controlled substance, tampering with evidence and fraud were dropped.
District Judge Albert Mitchell said he later would set a formal sentencing date, likely during time set aside for Warner’s jury trial that was scheduled to begin April 29.
Warner’s attorney, Daniel Lindsey, said in court Tuesday he wanted to have sentencing that day and “get it taken care of.” But District Attorney Tim Rose rejected that, saying the victim and her family wished to make a statement before sentencing.
Warner acknowledged these facts of the case presented by Rose:
• On March 6, 2016, a female ambulance worker told Warner she was filling ill. He offered to give her intravenous fluids at the old Tucumcari Police Department building. He gave her Phenergan, an anti-nausea drug that also acts as a sedative, to the woman. He also injected into her what he called vitamins with a syringe.
The victim lost consciousness and later was driven to her parents’ home in Tucumcari. Rose said the victim’s mother saw her daughter was incoherent and put her in bed. The victim said she had no memory for hours after the injection.
Rose said Warner and the victim were in the building for about three hours, which was “highly unusual” because it takes only about 30 minutes to administer IV fluids. Warner said he’d been on the phone during that time, but an examination of his cellphone showed he didn’t answer calls or text messages during that time.
The victim later recalled “feeling strange in her private area” and experiencing vaginal discharge, Rose said. A nurse who examined her noted the symptoms and tenderness in her genitals. A toxicology test later revealed the victim had traces of Phenergan and another drug that produces amnesia-type results.
Rose said Warner searched on his phone about the drugs he’d administered and how long they remained in a person’s system. Rose said Warner also had used expired drugs that never were disposed of as required by law and tried to go to Dan C. Trigg Memorial Hospital to get rid of them. Rose said Warner also backdated disposal records of the drugs to before the time of the incident.
• Warner sent the victim “sexual harassment-type” text messages that required sexual favors from her to be recertified as an emergency medical technician.
• New Mexico State Police arrived at city hall with a search warrant for Warner’s phone. He said he’d left it at home but consented to an interview. During the interview, Warner’s cellphone rang, who then surrendered it to officers.
• The city once had a periodic $200 petty-cash fund distributed to ambulance employees for per-diem payments. In March 2016, Warner announced the petty-cash fund had been discontinued but kept withdrawing money from the city. An envelope containing $200 was found with Warner during the investigation.
Lindsey declined to comment after the court hearing. Warner, wearing a cream-colored suit jacket and was clean-shaven compared to his arrest nearly 18 months ago, quickly left the courthouse after adjournment.
Warner was hired as Tucumcari’s fire chief in January 2015. Then-city manager Jared Langenegger fired him March 19, 2017. Warner previously had spent 14 years as a professional firefighter in Clovis and three years as a volunteer firefighter before that.