Man shot at San Juan County smoke shop pleads guilty to shoplifting

Steve Garrison The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The 21-year-old man shot by a cigarette store clerk on Sept. 26 pleaded guilty earlier this week to one felony count of shoplifting.

Jermaine Smith pleaded guilty in district court Monday to shoplifting items valued at more than $500, a fourth-degree felony that carries a maximum sentence of 18 months imprisonment and $5,000 in fines.

The deal was reached through a plea agreement with prosecutors. In exchange, the San Juan County District Attorney's Office agreed to dismiss one felony count of tampering with evidence.

The man accused of shooting him, Jarrett Breeden, 23, faces felony charges in connection to the incident.

Breeden appeared at a preliminary hearing Thursday and unsuccessfully challenged probable cause in the case against him. His case has been bound over to district court.

His attorney, Steve Murphy of the Murphy and Titus Law Firm, said in an interview that Breeden acted in self-defense when he allegedly shot Smith.

"Jarrett was afraid for his safety and shot (Smith) in the leg," Murphy said. "A citizen of the United States, a citizen in New Mexico, has the right, if confronted, to defend himself."

According to state statutes, a person has acted in self-defense if there is an appearance of immediate danger of death or great bodily harm, if the defendant acted in fear based on that threat, and if the apparent danger would have caused a reasonable person to act in the same manner, given the same circumstances.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said he could not comment on the specifics of the case, but said prosecutors are pursuing charges based on the facts.

According to the criminal complaint, Breeden caught Smith attempting to shoplift synthetic marijuana from the Still Smokin' shop located at 5529 U.S. Highway 64 west of Farmington.

Breeden brandished a gun and Smith fled the store, the complaint states. As Smith was running across the parking lot, Breeden allegedly shot him in the legs, the complaint states.

Smith was transported to San Juan Regional Medical Center and treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Breeden was charged in Aztec Magistrate Court on Sept. 26 with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, a third-degree felony, and negligent use of a deadly weapon, a petty misdemeanor.

Murphy said that Breeden, a trained shooter with a concealed-carry permit, believed that Smith was pulling an item out of his pocket when he allegedly fired the incapacitating shot.

"In New Mexico, if you believe that you have an immediate danger, and you act, then you are not acting against the law," Murphy said. "And we hope that the jury will agree with us."

Breeden's arraignment date in district court has not yet been set, according to court records.

Smith is expected to be sentenced on Nov. 17.

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