FARMINGTON — A stray bullet took a man's life and devastated his family and friends.
Christopher Valdez, 40, was shot in the chest and died near Orchard Avenue and Hopi Street on Saturday night. Police said Valdez was a bystander and had nothing to do with a gunfight that erupted at a residence on 101 E. Hopi St., just before 8:40 p.m.
Though police are still not sure who fired the bullet that killed Valdez, two men have been charged with felony murder for instigating the shooting that claimed his life.
Valdez spent the day of his death with his 14-year-old brother-in-law, Trevor Matlock.
"I looked up to him like a brother," Matlock said.
Valdez and Matlock got haircuts and ate dinner at Valdez's mother's home and were hanging out in Valdez's yard on Orchard Street when shots rang out.
"When he heard the gun shots he didn't hesitate, he started running over there," Matlock said. "He was trying to help them. He scared off the dude that was shooting through the door. He said: 'You better run before I catch you.'"
Matlock said more shots were fired from the home and he saw Valdez fall to the ground after he was shot.
Valdez's family recounted the night during an interview on Thursday.
His wife, sister and mother had to shake their heads at Valdez's instinct to run toward danger.
"What was he thinking?" said Misty Smith, Valdez's wife.
Matlock was the only relative with Valdez when he was shot. He called his sister, Smith, and Elsie Carpenter, Valdez's mother, to tell them about the shooting.
Smith and Carpenter arrived on the scene shortly after Matlock made the calls.
When Carpenter arrived, her son was sprawled out in the street.
"I can still see him laying in the street," she said. "They wouldn't let me go to him. I kept telling (police) to call an ambulance and get him out of the street. It tore my heart to see him in the street. It's something nobody wants to go through. Especially a mother."
Valdez was hard working, goofy and friendly, family members said. They are struggling to cope with the "senseless" shooting as they plan for Valdez's unexpected funeral.
Valdez was raised in Farmington and dropped out of high school to start working in the local energy industry. He started off at an entry level position and worked his way into a supervisor position for D & J Drilling.
"He worked hard. That's one of the main things that people will remember about him, how hard he worked," Smith said. She said his schedule allowed him to work for seven days straight and then take about a week off.
His personality meshed with his work schedule. Like a switch, he would go from hard worker to goofball.
Kathy Hurd said they last time she saw her brother was at a Fourth of July party. She said Valdez was shocked the other adults there didn't think highly of his new, green and purple Batman and Robin shoes.
"He was offended that other people didn't like them," Hurd said.
He loved his life, Smith said. On his days off, his favorite pastimes were riding four-wheelers and dirt bikes with Matlock and taking his wife to concerts -- from metal concerts to George Strait.
Many who live or pass through the neighborhood surrounding Hopi and Orchard remember Valdez be pulled on his "longboard" by his dog, "Big Baby Davis."
"He started off on rollerblades, but he would always wreck so he switched to a longboard so he could bail," Matlock said. "He got tired of kicking up all the hills so he got the dog to pull him."
Valdez was also compassionate and was not shy about helping others, family members said.
Years ago, Valdez was driving with his wife when a vehicle in front of them blew a tire and rolled several times off of a highway. Without thinking, Smith said, Valdez grabbed a tool, broke the vehicle's windows and helped three people get out safely.
Another time, Valdez was a passenger in a truck coming home from work when the truck hit a deer. Valdez performed CPR on the animal.
From a young age, he was welcoming to those around him, family members said. When Valdez was a boy, Carpenter said, she would return home from work every night to find a house filled with children she often didn't recognize.
Hurd said one of those strangers Valdez invited over became her husband.
Neighbors started a memorial near where he was killed and others have added to it every day since.
"That memorial is awesome," Carpenter said. "It touches my heart to see the affect he had on people."Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.