Lt. Owen Landdeck
Lt. Owen Landdeck (Courtesy of Farmington Police Department)

FARMINGTON — The Safety City police officer training facility in Kirtland will be renamed during a ceremony on Sunday in honor of Farmington police Lt. Owen Landdeck, who died in an accidental shooting 35 years ago during a routine training exercise.

Landdeck's family and friends are expected to attend the ceremony, which will be open to the public. Mayor Tommy Roberts is scheduled to make a speech, and Farmington police Chief Steve Hebbe will dedicate the facility. Lt. Taft Tracy will serve as master of ceremonies.

Landdeck was playing the role of an uncooperative, deranged subject in a training exercise at the safety facility when he was fatally shot on Aug. 17, 1979, by a cadet who failed to unload his weapon, according to a biography provided by the Farmington Police Department.

The scenario was designed to prepare the new officers of the Farmington Police Academy II for the real-life encounters they would face in the field.

Landdeck fired two blanks at a cadet, who requested backup officers to assist in a pursuit. The training instructor was checking the gun of one of the two cadets called in to the scenario to ensure his gun was not loaded. While doing so, the other cadet fired a single round, which penetrated Landdeck's chest and struck a cadet standing behind him in the arm.

The cadets administered first aid to Landdeck, but he died a short time later.

Landdeck was a 20-year veteran of law enforcement, serving with the Albuquerque Police Department for 10 years before joining Farmington police. He was promoted to sergeant in April 1978 and promoted to lieutenant only weeks before his death.

According to the provided biography, former Farmington police Chief Robert Schmerheim said at his funeral: "It was a great loss to the police department. He was a fine officer, top notch."

Landdeck was involved in the creation of the Farmington Police Department's "Office Bill Program," a pre-cursor to today's school resource officer program.

The late officer's daughter, Brenda Landdeck, was 13 when her father died. The Aztec woman said she was speechless when she learned the facility would be named in her father's honor.

"I still miss him," she said. "I wish I could talk to him to this day, and one day I will."

Brenda Landdeck provided The Daily Times a copy of the speech she expects to read at the ceremony. In it, she expresses her appreciation for the work performed by police.

"Cops have tough jobs," she wrote. "They don't see the good. They see the bad getting worse in a world that seems out of control and uglier by the day."

Owen Landdeck is one of three Farmington police officers who have been killed in the line of duty, according to the New Mexico Law Enforcement Memorial website.

Officer Benjamin Herrera was shot to death on March 31, 1962, while trying to apprehend a man during a domestic dispute. Community Service Officer Victoria Louise Chavez was shot to death by Kevin Ogden on July 9, 1992, as she checked the homes of vacationing Farmington residents. Ogden was convicted of first-degree murder in 1994 and sentenced to life in prison.

IF YOU GO

What: Ceremony to rename Safety City

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Safety City, 428 County Road 6480, Kirtland

More info: Refreshments will be served and a tour of the facility will follow the event. 

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and stgarrison@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.