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

Officer involved in shooting back on duty

 

October 17, 2018



CLOVIS — Police Officer Brent Aguilar told investigators that Aaron Chavez threatened him with what looked to be a knife just after midnight on Oct. 8.

In response, Aguilar “discharged his duty weapon, firing four rounds fatally striking Chavez,” according to a news release Monday from New Mexico State Police.

Clovis City Manager Justin Howalt said Aguilar, a 12-year veteran officer, was placed on paid administrative leave, as is routine with an officer-involved shooting, following the incident that occurred south of the Prince Street overpass.

Clovis Police Chief Doug Ford wrote in an email Tuesday that Aguilar has “completed our procedures for this incident and was placed back to duty as of Monday.”

State police have said Chavez was shot dead while fleeing an allegedly stolen vehicle. Chavez had abandoned the vehicle straddling a curb outside a gas station and “led officers on a foot pursuit,” police said.

“During the foot pursuit Officer Aguilar saw another officer fall, and yell, ‘He (Chavez) has something in his hands,’” according to Monday’s news release.

It continued:

“Officer Aguilar said as he was running toward Chavez with the intent to take him into custody, he saw Chavez’s right hand inside his right pocket. Chavez removed his right hand from his pocket holding an object which Officer Aguilar perceived to be a knife.

“Chavez started swinging the object at Officer Aguilar. Officer Aguilar stopped abruptly fearful Chavez might cut his face and/or throat.

“A chain saw blade fashioned into a weapon was found lying next to Chavez.”

Police have not answered questions as to where Chavez was shot. No information has been released about the second officer’s role in the incident. The name of the second officer has not been released.

Chavez’s father last week said he wanted to know more details of the shooting and would file a lawsuit if necessary. This week, he referred The News to his lawyer for all subsequent questions but would not identify his lawyer.

Other than Aguilar’s duty status, police and city officials have not responded to questions about the shooting.

District Attorney Andrea Reeb said officer-involved shootings are brought before a panel of district attorneys to determine if the shooting is justified.

None of the DAs on the panel are local, she said.

If the panel were to find a shooting was not justified, Reeb said she would ask another district attorney to consider whether criminal charges should be filed since Aguilar is the son of her chief investigator, Dan Aguilar.

The DA panel will not be asked to review the case until state police complete their investigation. Reeb has said that could take months.

She declined to comment on the shooting, but noted “deference is given to the officer in these situations under the case law.”

“Would a reasonable officer in that situation perceive a threat of great bodily harm or death?” she said, addressing a question as the circumstances justifying deadly force.

“That’s the question.”

Records show Brent Aguilar is named in three pending lawsuits related to his work as a Clovis police officer.

Two of those claims allege the use of excessive force — against Jorge Corona during a traffic stop in Clovis in August 2014 and against Robert Moya during a pursuit in May of last year. Both of those cases are still in a federal district court in New Mexico.

Aguilar is also a named defendant in a pending lawsuit against the city alleging racial discrimination following Clovis police’s arrest of Seibenthauler Lodge at a Halloween party in 2015.

Attorneys representing Aguilar and the plaintiffs on those cases did not immediately respond Tuesday to requests for comment.

Ford declined comment on the ongoing litigation.

He did write in his email on Tuesday that Oct. 8 was the first time since 1986 that a subject was killed “in a deadly force incident with Clovis Police Department.”

 

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