Authorities release new information on officer-involved shooting
FARMINGTON — A new set of charges has been filed against a man who was shot last week in San Juan County by law enforcement officials after an extended chase that covered much of northwest New Mexico.
The San Juan County Sheriff's Office has filed four charges against Ryan Westman, 25, including a third-degree felony count of aggravated battery against a peace officer and a fourth-degree felony count of aggravated fleeing, according to a copy of the criminal complaint.
Westman was shot once in the right arm Thursday evening at the Valero gas station at 4913 E. Main St. in Farmington after leading authorities on a vehicle pursuit earlier in the day, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.
He was shot by San Juan County Sheriff's Office Deputy Chad Langley, who was assigned to the U.S. Marshals Service South West Investigative Fugitive Team (SWIFT) Task Force, according to a San Juan County Sheriff's Office press release.
Langley is on paid administrative leave, according to Detective Lt. Kyle Lincoln of the San Juan County Sheriff's Office.
The sheriff's office charges stem from the events that allegedly transpired when authorities attempted to take Westman into custody around 7 p.m. Thursday at the Farmington gas station.
A Hispanic male exited Westman's vehicle to pay for gas and started to pump fuel into the vehicle, according to court documents.
As Langley and an agent for the Marshals Service approached the vehicle, Westman is accused of starting the vehicle, turning the wheels toward the USMS agent and accelerating the vehicle, according to court documents.
The agent was struck by the front-passenger side of Westman's vehicle, and Langley responded by firing his rifle into the vehicle.
The affidavit states there were several areas where projectiles penetrated the inside of the vehicle, including the door frame on the inside of the driver's door and the top of the front passenger seat.
Lincoln said the sheriff's office is still investigating the number of shots fired by Langley.
Westman allegedly fled the scene in the vehicle and later was taken into custody north of the intersection of County Road 350 and U.S. Highway 64 after a New Mexico State Police vehicle rammed Westman's vehicle onto the shoulder of the road.
Westman was transported to the San Juan Regional Medical Center for treatment. He was released and booked into the San Juan County Adult Detention Center early Friday.
Lincoln identified the Hispanic male accompanying Westman as Robert Baca, who was arrested at the gas station for alleged possession of a controlled substance after being accused of having heroin and syringes.
Several agencies, including the San Juan County and McKinley County sheriff's offices, New Mexico State Police, the Farmington Police Department and the Shiprock Police Department, were involved in the pursuit of Westman from an area north of Gallup to Farmington.
Sgt. Robert Turney of the McKinley County Sheriff's Office said Westman is involved in a murder investigation after the victim of an alleged battery, 57-year-old Mitchell Chavez, died in a Flagstaff, Arizona, hospital on Sunday.
Westman initially was charged on Jan. 22 with third-degree felony counts of assault with intent to commit a violent felony and aggravated battery, along with a fourth-degree felony count of aggravated assault, according to the criminal complaint.
Turney believes homicide charges could be filed against Westman later this week.
Westman is accused of striking Chavez multiple times in the head with a blunt object, according to Turney. Chavez was flown to a hospital in Flagstaff for treatment.
It was around 11:30 a.m. Sunday when Chavez was taken off life support and was pronounced dead, Turney said.
As part of the investigation, deputies for the McKinley County Sheriff's Office on Thursday were given a possible location for Westman in an unincorporated portion of McKinley County known as Gamerco.
A deputy made visual contact with the suspect in the area and observed Westman get into a white passenger car and flee the scene around 10 a.m., according to Turney. He led officers from Gamerco to Shiprock to Farmington, where authorities lost him.
Authorities were able to locate Westman later on Thursday by pinging his cellphone, which returned a possible location in the area of English Road and East Main Street in Farmington.
Westman was charged in Gallup Magistrate Court on Friday with 10 counts, including three second-degree felony counts of assault with intent to commit a violent felony on a peace officer and three third-degree felony counts of aggravated assault upon a peace officer, according to court records.
He is accused of trying to strike a McKinley County sheriff's deputy and two officers for the Shiprock Police Department with his vehicle as they tried to deploy spike strips along U.S. Highway 64 and U.S. Highway 491, according to Turney.
"It's amazing no one else was hurt," Turney said.
Turney wanted to express his gratitude for all the agencies involved in the arrest of Westman and said their response illustrates how committed they are to the safety of their community.
Westman was incarcerated at the county jail this afternoon on a no-bond hold.
Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at email@example.com.