The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Records: Failed search allowed gun in jail

Document quotes officer: ‘This is all my fault’


February 16, 2018

CLOVIS — The Clovis police officer who brought a criminal suspect into the Curry County jail on Feb. 1 was heard to say, “This is all my fault,” after the suspect pulled a gun, took a hostage and eventually shot himself, records show.

Curry County officials late Wednesday released emails and other records that allege Officer Sanford Wagner failed to properly search the suspect, expressed regret and was “shaken up” by the resulting four-hour standoff with law officers.

The records were released in response to an Inspection of Public Records Act request by The Eastern New Mexico News.

Records include emails among jail staff and an incident statement sent by Jail Administrator Mark Gallegos to County Manager Lance Pyle less than 24 hours after the situation began.

High in a list itemized under a subsection of that report entitled “Facts,” Gallegos wrote: “Clovis Police Department Officer Sanford Wagner failed to properly pat search and (sic) arrestee prior to escorting Arrestee into the Pre-Booking area of the Curry County Adult Detention Center and turning over this arrestee to our detention staff.”

Police have declined to comment on the incident and have not named the officer responsible for searching Flores. Efforts to contact Wagner have not been successful.

Pyle announced in a news release Feb. 5 that Wagner brought Flores into the jail facility, but it wasn’t clear then if Wagner had also been the one responsible for searching the suspect.

Records released this week clearly make that allegation.

The hostage situation began around 2:45 p.m. on Feb. 1 when Detention Officer Sean Rowland was preparing to start a pre-booking patdown of Flores inside a small vestibule room between the jail’s sally port entrance and the larger booking area, records show. That’s when Flores pulled a Kimber Micro semi-automatic pistol from his clothes.

“At this time, it was clear that there was a hostage situation due to (Rowland) was in a confined area and that Arrestee Flores was waving a gun and pointing it in the direction of (Rowland),” Gallegos wrote.

Rowland was released about 2:49 p.m., he noted, less than five minutes after the situation began. Flores remained alone in the vestibule for the next four hours, pointing the gun at himself.

Rowland was later seen by the Clovis Fire Department’s Peer Counseling Team and met the following morning with administrative staff, Gallegos wrote. He said last week that Rowland was still on the job.

Gallegos also said he spoke with the arresting officer early during the outset of the incident.

“As I was in the booking area and instructing staff to vacate the booking area, I made contact with Officer Sanford Wagner from the Clovis Police Department and asked him if he conducted a pat search of Arrestee Wesley Fores (sic)? At this time he stated that he did a thorough search and was shaken up in regard to this incident,” Gallegos wrote. “He repeated that he was sorry and again appeared shaken up.”

Prior to Gallegos’ incident report, jail compliance standards officer Jay Pavlik relayed the information more succinctly in an email.

“Mr. Gallegos instructed me to start a (sic) email by time line,” Pavlik wrote in an email to Pyle sent at 3:04 p.m. on Feb. 1, about 20 minutes after the situation began. “I witnessed CPD Officer Wagner stating, ‘This is all my fault that I patted the individual down.’ ”

Flores, 28, had been arrested that day on a bench warrant for failure to appear at a court appearances on charges that included felon in possession of a firearm, records show. Officers initially responded to Flores’ location on Jonquil Drive after receiving a report of a suicide threat at 1:51 p.m., with police dispatch noting Flores had “stolen several weapons” and “was going to shoot himself.”

Curry County Sheriff Wesley Waller said Flores shot himself in the face “a brief moment” after pepper spray was deployed into the vestibule room “in an attempt to safely subdue Flores” around 6:45 p.m. at the end of the standoff.

Waller said Thursday that Flores was “still hospitalized in Lubbock,” but the hospital was “no longer providing updates on his condition pursuant to a privacy request.”

Clovis Police Chief Doug Ford said last week that no police employees were placed on administrative leave since the jail incident occurred, and jail records showed Wagner still on the job at least as of last week.

“Regarding the employment status of any employee of the Clovis Police Department, the issue you are asking about is a personnel matter and we have no information to release to you,” CPD Capt. Roman Romero said Thursday in a response to follow-up questions on Wagner’s status.


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