Serving the High Plains

Sheriff shot gun-brandishing man south of Tucumcari

The Quay County sheriff admitted to fatally shooting a rural Tucumcari man who was brandishing a firearm at healthcare personnel and law enforcement officers earlier this week.

Sheriff Dennis Garcia volunteered the information about his involvement during a phone interview two days after the shooting of Aubrey James Osteen, 77, at his home on Quay Road 49 about a dozen miles south of Tucumcari.

“Because I was involved, I feel the I need to be transparent about it,” Garcia said in a phone interview with the Quay County Sun.

New Mexico State Police in a news release Thursday revealed the identity of the deceased but did not identify the sheriff’s officer who shot him.

Garcia said four deputies were sent to Osteen’s home the morning of May 14 after dispatchers received several calls of him brandishing a firearm at a home healthcare provider and emergency medical technicians.

The sheriff said an EMT took a firearm away from Osteen, but he apparently retrieved another.

Deputies were inside the home to take statements from the health workers when the situation “took a turn,” Garcia said, describing Osteen as “angry and unhappy.”

Garcia said Osteen shot him once in the chest with a handgun. The sheriff said Osteen turned to Undersheriff Russell Shafer, who tried to wrestle the gun away from him.

Garcia said he then shot Osteen, who was declared dead at the scene by the Office of Medical Examiner. He said the body probably would undergo an autopsy in Albuquerque.

Garcia was taken by ambulance to Trigg Memorial Hospital for his injuries, which he described as superficial because his bulletproof vest mostly protected him.

No one else was injured in the incident.

Garcia said he has voluntarily taken paid administrative leave after the shooting. Such leave and an internal review for officer-involved shootings are typical, but Garcia admitted he wasn’t sure how to handle the latter because he is unaware of another sheriff being involved in such a situation.

He said he would consult with county attorney Warren Frost and New Mexico Counties about the matter.

New Mexico State Police stated in a news release its Investigations Bureau agents are working to independently determine the series of events leading to the shooting, including collecting evidence and conducting interviews.

“Throughout the process, investigative findings will be shared with the district attorney for their review and consideration,” the news release stated.

Garcia described the fatal outcome at Osteen’s home as “unfortunate.”

“We feel regret when we have to take this action,” he said. “We send our condolences to the family. We understand the heartache, as well.”

It was the second time Garcia has used deadly force. In 2018 as undersheriff, he shot and killed Robert Roybal as he held a knife to the throat of a hostage in a Tucumcari home. According to reports at the time, the single fatal shot was fired through a window after Roybal pressed the knife harder into the hostage’s neck.

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