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Officers Cleared In Shooting Near Las Cruces High School

Feb 7, 2019

Credit Lapel camera video / LCPD

The Third Judicial District Attorney’s Office, after reviewing evidence from the Sept. 27, 2018, shooting near a local high school, has concluded the use of force was justified and no action will be taken against the four Las Cruces police officers involved in the incident.

Lapel camera video from the incident shows that 32-year-old Juan Angel Pinedo failed to obey multiple commands and lunged toward a handgun the moment before officers discharged their weapons. Pinedo died from multiple gunshot wounds.

Pinedo had an active felony warrant for his arrest from a shooting that occurred six days prior. On Sept. 21, Pinedo was accused of being armed with a black handgun that he pointed at his ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend on the 200 block of Reymond Street. The ex-girlfriend intervened and Pinedo drove away. Witnesses indicate that as Pinedo drove away, he fired two rounds into the air. Investigators looking into the shooting discovered that Pinedo had an active order of protection against him that prohibited him from possessing a handgun. A felony warrant was issued Sept. 22 for Pinedo’s arrest. The ex-girlfriend also reported hearing gunshots near her backyard during the early-morning hours of Sept. 24. Investigators canvased the scene and located three spent shell casings behind her home. The 9mm shell casings were the same caliber casings from the Sept. 21 shooting.

The investigation revealed that, about 5 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27, Las Cruces police and agents from the U.S. Marshals Service learned that Pinedo was inside a second-story apartment at 1101 E. Boutz Rd. Officers made contact with a woman at the apartment but she refused to allow them in and denied that Pinedo was there. Roughly 30 minutes later, assisting officers spotted Pinedo jump from a second-story apartment window and run north. The officers saw Pinedo carrying a black handgun.

The investigation shows that officers lost track of Pinedo until shortly before 6 p.m. when a witness called 911 to report a suspicious man near an apartment complex at Montana Avenue and Jones Road. Officers then learned that an armed man was seen running south through a pair of practice fields on the west side of the Las Cruces High School campus. Both baseball and softball fields were occupied by youth teams at the time.

Officers converged at the school and followed witness statements that allege an armed man was running south and possibly jumped a chain-link fence that separates the school campus from an irrigation ditch. Another witness, a homeowner, told officers that a suspicious man briefly jumped into his backyard which is adjacent to the LCHS campus.

Shortly after 6 p.m., officers spotted Pinedo along the ditch bank and jumping the chain-link fence back onto the LCHS campus. Officers saw that Pinedo was armed with a handgun as he scaled the fence. As Pinedo jumped the fence, he either dropped the handgun or somehow lost control of it. As officers approached, Pinedo was standing within close proximity to the handgun.

Lapel camera audio reveals that officers gave at least 11 commands for Pinedo to raise his hands and step away from the handgun that was on the ground a few feet behind the suspect. Lapel camera video shows that Pinedo briefly complied with officers’ commands and can be seen with his back to the officers, and his back toward the gun, with his arms raised into the air.

Investigators determined that, instead of continuing to comply with officers’ commands, Pinedo quickly lowered his hands, turned around and lunged toward the handgun. All four officers fired multiple rounds.

The investigation revealed the handgun Pinedo had in his possession was a 9mm Hi-Point semiautomatic. It had one round in the chamber and its magazine contained several additional rounds. The gun and magazine were located a few feet apart and were possibly separated when Pinedo jumped the fence and the gun fell to the ground. The gun’s serial number appears to have been intentionally obliterated, likely to avoid tracing.

As is standard protocol for such an incident, the four officers involved in the incident were placed on administrative leave shortly after the incident. They have all since returned to regular duty. The officers involved in this incident are Nathan Krause, who has 10 years of experience with LCPD; Manuel Frias, an 11-year veteran; Keegan Arbogast, employed by LCPD for four years; and Sgt. Tate McBride who has been with LCPD for 11 years.

The shooting was investigated by the Officer-involved Incident Task Force which includes investigators from New Mexico State Police, the Las Cruces Police Department, Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico State University Police. Once completed, results of the investigation are turned over to the Third Judicial District Attorney’s Office for review.

Information from Las Cruces Police