New Mexico State Police officer, suspect killed in separate shootings along I-10

Last update: 10:40 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4

LAS CRUCES - A suspect shot and killed a New Mexico State Police officer in Luna County before being shot and killed on Interstate 10 in Las Cruces on Thursday.

NMSP officer Darian Jarrott, assisting Homeland Security Investigations, pulled over a white Chevrolet pickup truck being driven by Omar Felix Cueva near milepost 101 on Interstate 10 east of Deming. During the traffic stop, Cueva opened fire and killed Jarrot, said State Police Chief Robert Thornton.

An HSI officer notified dispatch of the shooting as Cueva headed east on I-10, said Thornton, who spoke late Thursday to media gathered outside of the New Mexico State Police headquarters in Deming.

New Mexico State Police officer Darian Jarrott is seen in a NMSP photo. Jarrott was killed in the line of duty east of Deming on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021.

Thornton said Cueva pulled over near mile post 116 on I-10 and exchanged gunfire with other New Mexico State Police officers. Cueva then continued driving east on I-10. 

At mile post 135, as Cueva neared Las Cruces, police were able to deflate the tires of the pickup, Thornton said. Then, near mile post 140 — just before the Avenida de Mesilla exit — a Las Cruces Police officer performed a pursuit intervention technique, or PIT maneuver, on Cueva's pickup and both vehicles came to a stop.

The Las Cruces officer and Cueva each exited their vehicles and exchanged gunfire. Authorities from several agencies — LCPD, NMSP Doña Ana County Sheriff's Office, und U.S. Border Patrol — also returned fire and killed Cueva.

Cueva, 39, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The incident in Las Cruces happened about 12:30 p.m.

One Las Cruces police officer was shot by Cueva, Thornton said. The LCPD officer was transported to an El Paso hospital where he was treated and released.

Thornton said Cueva, who lived in the Deming area, was on his way to Las Cruces to participate in a drug deal. The police chief described Cueva as having a "violent criminal history," including drug trafficking charges, but not in New Mexico. 

The names of the other officers involved will not be released until an investigation is complete, Thornton said.

Darian Jarrott remembered

Thornton, fighting back tears, spoke fondly of Jarrott during the 20-minute news conference.

"Officer Darian Jarrott went out there today and was serving his state, his community the best way he knew how and I love him for that," he said.

Jarrott, 28, was from Lordsburg and was stationed in Deming. He had three children and a fourth on the way, Thornton said.

Thornton said Jarrott had served with NMSP since July 2015. Jarrott's body was first brought to Deming and was then escorted to Albuquerque.

Several state officials have offered their condolences to Jarrott's family on social media.

New Mexico State Police Patrolman Darian Jarrott, left, prepares for a mock inspection of a WIPP shipment with the help of instructors Sgt. Mark Madrid and Patrolman Jimmy White.

New Mexico Rep. Candie Sweetser, a Democrat from Deming, tweeted: "There are no words for how heartbreaking it is to lose an officer in the line of duty — especially an officer from such a close community as Lordsburg. My prayers and love are with the family and friends of NMSP Officer Darian Jarrott as we mourn this tragic loss."

Jarrott had previously worked in the Carlsbad area and in December, the Eddy County DWI Program presented him an award for outstanding DWI enforcement.

Investigation continues

I-10 was closed in both directions from mileposts 85 to 102 and from mileposts 139 to 141 for much of the day Thursday, state police said. Motorists were advised to avoid I-10 and Motel "for the next several hours" following the shooting.

By 6:30 p.m. Thursday, I-10 had reopened from milepost 85 to 102. Motel had also reopened, though some ramps on to I-10 in Las Cruces were still blocked off.

LCPD expected the investigation to last well into Thursday evening.

Redirected from the closed freeway, scores of semi-trucks hauling cargo rumbled through Las Cruces Thursday afternoon down North Main Street, West Picacho Avenue and West Amador Avenue. Some had exited Interstate 25 to cut through the city.

Dozens of semi trucks head south on Main Street around 4 p.m. after being redirected from the freeway. The I-10 being closed in both directions from mileposts 85 to 102 and from mileposts 139 to 141 after an officer involved shooting occurred on the interstate on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021.

This is the third police shooting in two days within Luna and Doña Ana counties in southern New Mexico.

On Wednesday in Las Cruces, a police officer shot a vehicle fleeing a traffic stop. The vehicle dragged another officer, who suffered a leg fracture in the incident. A female passenger in the vehicle was transported to an area hospital in critical condition, but police said it was unclear whether that happened before, during or after the shooting.

Also on Wednesday, officers from the Deming Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security Investigations shot and killed a person suspected of shooting at vehicles on I-10 near Deming.

'The guy was always smiling':State Police officer Darian Jarrott remembered by chief

Bystander captures shootout on video

A video being shared widely online shows the shootout in Las Cruces.

The video, shot by Austin Contreras, shows a Las Cruces Police unit pushing a white pickup truck on Interstate 10 east in Las Cruces. The pickup truck is facing the wrong direction in the video, making it look like it's reversing.

Contreras was repairing a back gate at Trails West near I-10 when he and his crew of four others heard sirens. As the truck came around the bend, Contreras said they could hear it hit the spike strips and the tires pop, but the driver still tried to go.

Police used a PIT maneuver to stop the fleeing truck, which slid straight down the interstate in its lane. After being pushed for several dozen yards, the vehicles stop.

The pickup truck driver — now identified as Cueva — and the LCPD officer got out of their vehicles at about the same time. Cueva— who appears to be wearing a head covering, possibly a ski mask — fires multiple rounds at the officer. The video shows the officer falling to the ground, but it's not clear whether he's hit by gunfire. The officer gets back to a crouched position. 

Dozens of shots are exchanged before officers from several other agencies come on-scene and fire at the suspect.

After Cueva falls to the ground, law enforcement officers from multiple agencies surround him, pointing their firearms at him. 

“It was shocking, I mean, nobody expected it to end in a gunfight,” Contreras said.

Contreras' crew later found a bullet hole in one of the trailers farther down from them. He said the bullet didn’t go through the trailer but made an indention and fell to the ground. LCPD spoke to the group about what they witnessed, and police were shown the stray bullet.

News:Officers throughout New Mexico travel to Deming to assist State Police district in mourning

Elected officials offer condolences after shooting involving NM State police

U.S. Congresswoman Yvette Herrell, R-N.M., first released a statement saying two NMSP officers were killed, but later sent a correction noting one had died.

“I am devastated to hear a New Mexico State Police Officer was killed, and several other officers were injured, earlier today," Herrell said. "The death of any law enforcement officer in the line of duty is a reminder of the debt we owe the brave men and women who stand in the gap to protect us from evil. My prayers go out to the officer's family and for the recovery of the injured officers.” 

Herrell's district includes all of southern New Mexico, including Luna and Doña Ana counties, where the incidents occurred.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered all flags to half-staff in the state of New Mexico, beginning Friday, in mourning for the death of the state police officer killed. 

Flags will be ordered to be flown at half-staff from Friday, Feb. 5, through sundown Tuesday, Feb. 9.

The governor issued the following statement:

“I am shocked, heartbroken and enraged by the loss of this public servant. I am praying for the local officer who was also shot and injured. We are still learning more about what happened and why, as law enforcement authorities continue to investigate, and we will all get the facts about what happened today. But what we know right now is a New Mexico law enforcement officer has been killed in the line of duty and I am horrified as we grieve another life cut down, another family crushed by senseless violence in our state. Violent crime is a scourge on New Mexico, and the men and women who step up and put on the badge to protect our communities fight it with everything they’ve got every day. We are and must remain grateful for their heroic service every single day – and moments like this remind us why. The New Mexico State Police put their lives on the line to help keep us safe. I join all New Mexico and the New Mexico State Police community in grieving this senseless, heinous loss.”

Bethany Freudenthal can be reached at, 575-541-5449 or @bethanyfreuden1 on Twitter. Lucas Peerman can be reached at Leah Romero can be reached at