SOCORRO, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico State Police are investigating a deadly officer-involved shooting that happened Thursday afternoon on I-25 southbound near Socorro.
Investigators said the suspect killed by officers is believe to be the same suspect wanted for carjacking someone at knife-point in Albuquerque Thursday morning.
Traffic all afternoon Thursday and late into the night was diverted off of I-25 southbound in Socorro before San Antonio.
The shooting happened south of Socorro on the highway around 12:30 Thursday afternoon.
KRQE News 13 spoke with a man who said he just happened to drive by in the northbound lanes when he saw officers with guns drawn and a man lying in the road.
“I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” explained Michael Indelicato.
Indelicato told KRQE News 13 he was driving northbound on I-25 Thursday afternoon south of Socorro, when he slowed down to the sight of flashing lights.
“I looked over and saw two or three police officers, I saw guns pointed,” recalled Indelicato.
KRQE News 13 learned what he saw was two New Mexico State Police officers and a Socorro County Sheriff’s deputy, after a 12 mile pursuit with a suspect.
The area on I-25 near mile marker 137 is now the scene of the latest officer-involved shooting.
“Once our officers turned on lights to pull it over, the driver took off, which is another indication of someone that wants to get away from police,” explained New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas.
He said officers are still investigating what exactly led to two of his officers and a Socorro County Sheriff’s deputy firing their weapons.
“They perceived a threat, what that threat is, we’re working through,” Kassetas told KRQE News 13.
“Exactly what transpired here, I don’t know yet,” Chief Kassetas added. “I do know the vehicle obviously came to a stop.”
Chief Kassetas said the gold SUV officers were trying to stop was the same vehicle described by Albuquerque Police to be on the look out for from a crime earlier in the day.
According to an Albuquerque Police Department spokesman, a man reportedly carjacked the SUV’s driver at knife-point around 11:15 a.m. Thursday in southwest Albuquerque.
APD said the alleged victim was standing at an ATM near Central and 6th Street when the suspect took off south in his SUV after cutting his hand.
According to New Mexico State Police, that carjacking suspect was spotted around noon driving southbound on I-25 by a Socorro County Sheriff’s employee. State Police were called for backup.
Indelicato, originally from California, was trying to get back to Los Angeles Thursday, and never expected what he’d see next.
“I thought it was a deer in the road,” recalled Indelicato. “It turned out that as I got closer I could see that it was not a deer, it was a person lying face down on the cement.”
He said the man was lying face down, then lifted his head and arms. That’s when Indelicato said the three officers fired shots.
“Five to seven shots rang out and I saw him slump down, and that was it,” Indelicato recalled.
“My heart started beating and you know, I almost threw up,” Indelicato added. “It was just…something that you don’t ever want to see, I can tell you that.”
Indelicato told KRQE News 13 he did not see a weapon in the man’s hand, but he did acknowledge there could have been one, since he was driving the entire time this happened.
He said he initially hoped the man was struck with bean bag rounds, and later heard on the radio that the suspect had been killed.
“It’s hard to imagine that you just saw somebody get shot like that, and killed right in front of you,” the witness said.
State Police investigators have not said whether the suspect fired shots or had a weapon. The suspect was killed on scene.
Chief Kassetas said the two state police officers are on standard administrative leave pending the investigation.