Friday, October 31, 2014

Deputy was on phone with girlfriend during Las Cruces shooting, police say

By James Staley
Las Cruces Sun-News

Posted: 10/31/2014 10:53:59 AM MDT

LAS CRUCES >> The Santa Fe County sheriff's deputy accused of killing a fellow deputy in a Las Cruces hotel was on the phone with his girlfriend when he fired the fatal shots, according to court documents.

What the deputies were arguing about and other key details, however, is still unclear.

Tai Chan, 27, remains in custody at the Doña Ana County Detention Center. He appeared via video at Doña Ana Magistrate Court on Wednesday afternoon for arraignment. Chan pleaded not guilty.

At Wednesday's proceeding, a judge denied bail for Chan, his Santa Fe-based attorney Jon Day said. Such a ruling was expected, Day added, and is common for open counts of murder — that preliminary designation means the ultimate charge could range from first-degree murder to manslaughter.

Las Cruces police charged Chan with an open count of murder and booked him into detention center on Tuesday evening, several hours after he allegedly shot 29-year-old deputy Jeremy Martin on the seventh floor of Hotel Encanto in Las Cruces.

Police said the two had been arguing and Martin was fleeing their shared room, running toward an elevator, when Chan fired an unspecified number of rounds at him. Police found Martin bleeding near the elevator in the hotel lobby. He died from gunshot wounds to the back and arms at a local hospital.

A criminal complaint filed in court Wednesday revealed more details about the episode, including Chan telling a police officer he had shot Martin.

A friend who had been out with the off-duty deputies as they drank Monday night told police he received a call from Chan's girlfriend at 12:31 a.m. Tuesday, the complaint states. She wanted him to check on Chan because she had been talking to him on the phone moments earlier when she heard somebody say, "please don't, please don't," followed by gunshots.
According to the complaint, Chan's friend told police he saw Chan and Martin get into a "heated" argument at Dublin's Street Pub, one of three restaurants the deputies visited Monday night. At one point, Chan and Martin were pointing fingers at each other and had to be separated by a bartender.

Chan's friend said he never before had seen Chan that hostile, the complaint states.

A manager at Dublin's declined Tuesday to comment on the incident.

Chan and Martin reportedly caught a cab back to Hotel Encanto, just before midnight.

After the shooting, police found Chan on the seventh-floor landing to the hotel's roof. An officer said Chan smelled of alcohol and slurred his words, according to the complaint. Chan allegedly said, "I shot the guy," referring to Martin.

He also told the officer he was missing his cell phone — an iPhone with a red case. The complaint notes Martin had a phone on him when he arrived at the hospital.
Chan's friend told police that Chan had called him about 8 p.m. Monday to invite him to go out for drinks. But Chan didn't want to drive because he only had his duty vehicle, a gray 2014 Ford Explorer, the complaint states. Chan and Martin had stopped in Las Cruces on their way back to Santa Fe from Safford, Arizona, where they dropped off a prisoner Monday.

During a search in the Hotel Encanto parking lot, police found "law enforcement equipment" in the Ford Explorer, including an empty handgun holster, the complaint states.

Day said Wednesday afternoon that he was "surprised" to learn what details of the incident weren't included in the criminal complaint.

"The facts of this case seem to be significantly different than what's being portrayed," Day said, adding that rushing to judge Chan would be a mistake.

Day declined Wednesday to elaborate on what the criminal complaint omitted. Criminal complaints generally include only information that police deem critical to the investigation; they are not a complete summary of the investigation.

Chan, who is from Santa Fe, was enrolled at New Mexico State University from 2005 to 2010, when he received a criminal justice degree, a school spokeswoman said.

James Staley writes for the Las Cruces Sun-News.

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