Serving the High Plains

Police report: Shooter apologized to restaurant customers

TUCUMCARI - The man who shot and killed a manager of a Tucumcari restaurant last month apologized to customers after the attack and said no harm would come to them before he fatally turned the gun on himself in the parking lot.

Two friends of the assailant said he found out earlier that day his girlfriend had been "cheating" on him with the manager and was going to drive to the restaurant to confront him. The friends spent 30 minutes trying to persuade him to "not do anything stupid" and took away his vehicle keys, but he called another friend who picked him up and took him to the restaurant.

Those facts arose from New Mexico State Police's investigation of the Dec. 6 murder-suicide at the Tucumcari Pizza Hut. The Quay County Sun obtained the 51-page report through an open-records request.

State troopers interviewed witnesses, employees, first responders and customers at the restaurant. State police took over the investigation from Tucumcari police the night of the shootings.

The attack just outside the restaurant killed Pizza Hut Manager Jimmy Ray Chavez, 37, of Tucumcari. The attacker, Felipe "Flip" Anaya, 23, of Tucumcari shot himself in the head moments afterward and died the next day at an Amarillo hospital.

According to two friends of Anaya's who spoke to police, they and Anaya were at a home earlier that day on South Third Street in Tucumcari for a cookout and to play video games.

Anaya told the two he found out that day his girlfriend, with whom he had a small child, "cheated on him again" and wanted to shoot Chavez, the man with whom she had a relationship.

The victim's 19-year-old son, Christopher Chavez, acknowledged in a phone interview Friday his father once had a romantic relationship with Anaya's girlfriend, but he wasn't involved with her at the time of the shooting. Christopher Chavez said the woman recently had broken up with Anaya, and Anaya blamed Jimmy Ray Chavez for that.

"She did keep in contact as friends, but as far as I know, they didn't have a relationship (at the time)," Christopher Chavez said. "Instead of being a man about it, (Anaya) got drunk and shot him. And you can quote me on that."

Attempts to reach Anaya's girlfriend were not successful.

In the wake of Anaya remarking he wanted to shoot Chavez, his friends advised him to "not do anything stupid," tried to calm him and blocked the door to his vehicle to keep him from leaving, according to the police report.

One friend said he took away Anaya's vehicle keys to keep him from driving, and they talked to him for 30 minutes in an effort to get him to reconsider.

After Anaya hugged and cried with his young son, he left with another friend who picked him up. One of Anaya's friends told state police he "had a bad feeling" he was going to Pizza Hut to confront Chavez because that was where he worked.

A Pizza Hut employee working the front counter with Chavez that night said Anaya walked into the restaurant and told Chavez "I need to talk to you." Chavez replied, "OK, we can talk," and both men went out the south entrance where the employee could see them through a window. He said Chavez appeared calm.

The employee told police he "had a bad feeling about" the situation, and he "perceived an impending physical altercation" from Anaya's body language.

The worker said after about a five-minute conversation between the two men, he saw Chavez "put his hands up," appearing to have a disagreement with Anaya and trying to de-escalate the situation. He said he saw Anaya pull a handgun from his waistband and shoot Chavez.

The employee tried stop the bleeding from Chavez's wounds until an emergency medical technician showed up, who later told police Chavez was unresponsive. Chavez later was declared dead at the scene.

Anaya's two friends had driven to Pizza Hut in an effort to retrieve him. When they got there, they saw Anaya talking to Chavez just outside of the restaurant's south entrance. One friend heard Anaya say, "This is what you get for messing with my family" and shot Chavez. The other friend said he heard a similar remark from Anaya just before the shooting, except with an expletive.

Several customers inside the restaurant told officers they initially mistook the shots as plywood boards or a dinner rack falling to the floor. After the shots, they said Anaya walked back into the restaurant.

One customer recalled Anaya saying: "I'm sorry, folks. I shot that man. Don't be scared. I apologize for ruining your dinner. Don't be scared. I'm not going to hurt you."

Another customer recalled Anaya saying, "Everyone's fine; everyone's safe. I am sorry. I apologize from the bottom of my heart," then said the man he shot had been "cheating" with his girlfriend. The witness said it appeared Anaya was "about to cry," then left the building.

Anaya put his gun to his head at a corner of the restaurant's parking lot near First Street and shot himself. Officers handcuffed the mortally wounded Anaya and secured the area until he could be transported to a hospital in Amarillo.

Investigators found 10 bullet cartridges, two magazines and a Smith & Wesson 9 mm pistol at the scene. Two of the bullets or bullet fragments hit the outside wall of the building, leaving indentations.

A pathologist at the Office of the Medical Investigator in Albuquerque conducted a preliminary autopsy on Chavez days later with a state trooper present. She found five bullets in his body and a sixth bullet in his shirt. She found a total of 31 wounds or defects from the bullets or bullet fragments. She said the cause of death came from a bullet that struck him in the left temple.

Final results of autopsies on Chavez and Anaya won't be known for several more weeks, pending toxicology results.

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