Village of Hatch still trying to process officer’s murder

Officer Jose Chavez
Officer Jose Chavez

HATCH, N.M. (KRQE) – It has been an emotional few days for the village of Hatch, as the community there mourns the loss of Officer Jose Chavez, murdered during a traffic stop Friday.

Residents say they’re still feeling stunned by the shooting. Many attended a vigil in honor of Officer Chavez Saturday night.

Officer Chavez was a two year veteran of the Hatch Police force and a graduate of the Doña Ana County Law Enforcement Academy. It was the beginning of a career his family says he always dreamed of.

“Since he was a boy he always wanted to be a police officer. When we were small that was all he talked about,” said Chavez’s sister, Patricia Ramirez.

That career came to an end far too soon when Officer Chavez was shot in the neck. He had pulled over two men who were fleeing murder charges in Ohio. Jesse Hanes and James Nelson are accused of killing a 62-year-old man there. Investigators say after shooting Officer Chavez, Hanes carjacked another man and shot him too. At last check, that man was in stable condition.

Chavez’s family huddled together and sobbed hard during the vigil in Hatch.

“So many people have showed us that they’re here for us and that we’re not going through this alone,” said Ramirez.

The loss has also been devastating to the Hatch Police Department, now just seven officers strong.

“This is pretty tragic. Some of them are taking it pretty hard,” said Hatch Mayor Andy Nuñez.

Their chief said he’s too distraught to talk about the shooting, and Doña Ana Sheriff’s Deputies have been answering all the calls for service in the village.

Chavez leaves behind his parents, two siblings and his daughters, ages 6 and 14.

“He had a huge heart, very loving, funny, fun guy and a great father. His little girls meant everything to him,” said Ramirez.

Sunday morning, Officer Chavez’s family met with county officials to figure out his funeral arrangements. Funeral homes in Albuquerque and Las Cruces have offered to donate their services.

On Monday, the body of Officer Chavez will be transported from Albuquerque and returned to his hometown of Las Cruces.

Law enforcement agencies, fire departments and other first responders all along I-25 between Albuquerque and Las Cruces will join the escort, which is expected to leave Albuquerque at 2:00 p.m. The Las Cruces Police Department says the procession is likely to roll through Socorro about 3:00 p.m., through Truth or Consequences about 4:00 p.m., through Hatch about 4:40 p.m. and into Las Cruces around 5:00 p.m.

Those looking to participate are asked to pull over on the right shoulder and stay there until the motorcade passes.

The New Mexico State University Police Department in Las Cruces is also collecting condolence cards and donations for Officer Chavez’s family. They will be hand delivered to the family each week through September 15th. If you would like to send something via mail, you can send it to the address below:

To the family of Officer Jose Chavez
c/o NMSU Police Department
PO Box 30001 / MSC 3187
Las Cruces, NM 88003-8001

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