HATCH, N.M. (KRQE) – The Hatch community is in shock following the murder of Officer Jose Chavez Friday afternoon.
“I couldn’t believe it. You don’t expect anything like this in a small little town,” said Stephen Cabrales.
People stopped by to pay their respects at a growing memorial where Officer Chavez was shot and at a cruiser parked up the street.
“I sat there and I literally cried because he is a member of our community,” said Rhonda Cabrales.
Investigators say Officer Chavez pulled over a car on Franklin Street and was shot in the neck. The three men in the car fled, leading officers on a chase on I-25. They lost sight of the car and it exited at Radium Springs. There officials say one suspect, 38-year-old Jesse Hanes, shot a man then stole his car.
Officers later caught up with Hanes. Meanwhile Officer Chavez was taken to El Paso for treatment but later died. He was a two year veteran of the Hatch Police force and had graduated the Doña Ana law enforcement academy.
“We had a real reminder yesterday that no matter where you’re at, things can happen. There is no guarantee you come home,” said Doña Ana Undersheriff Ken Roberts.
The suspects, Jesse Hanes and James Nelson, were running from murder charges in Ohio. According to the Chillicothe Gazette both men had recently served time before for violent crimes. Hanes and Nelson are accused of shooting a 62-year-old man to death at the end of July. The third man who was in the car with them is being treated as a witness. Investigators say he was picked up by Hanes and Nelson before the shooting while hitchhiking.
Hatch residents are relieved Hanes and Nelson were caught so quickly, but they say they still don’t understand how this could happen.
“Just a senseless act that took a good officer, a good dad away,” said Stephen Cabrales.
Officer Chavez leaves behind two daughters, ages 14 and 6. Funeral services have not been finalized yet. Funeral homes in Hatch and Albuquerque have offered to donate their services free of charge.