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Man shot by police in Farmington faces murder charge
Ryan Westman will be held without bond pending trial
FARMINGTON — A Gallup man shot by a sheriff's deputy last week in Farmington has been charged with first-degree murder after the victim of an alleged aggravated battery died.
Ryan Westman, 25, was charged today and accused of a first-degree felony count of murder, a second-degree felony count of kidnapping and a third-degree felony count of tampering evidence, according to the criminal complaint.
He faces a total of 30 pending charges across multiple cases from the murder investigation and two vehicle pursuits he is accused of leading authorities on last week.
Westman was accused of striking 57-year-old Mitchell "Mark" Chavez in the head at least three times on Jan. 22 with a double-edged ax at a residence on Zeta Street in Williams Acres in McKinley County, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.
He initially was charged with third-degree felony counts of aggravated battery and assault with intent to commit a violent felony and, along with fourth-degree felony counts of aggravated assault and tampering with evidence.
Sgt. Robert Turney of the McKinley County Sheriff's Office said in an email he expects the original set of charges to be dismissed Friday or early next week. He added Westman was served with the new warrant this afternoon.
Chavez died Sunday morning after he was taken off life support at a Flagstaff, Arizona, hospital.
It was the original aggravated battery case that led Westman to flee Gamerco, north of Gallup along U.S. Highway 491, and lead authorities on a vehicle pursuit through northwest New Mexico.
Members of the McKinley County Sheriff's Office were attempting to execute the warrant on Westman around 10 a.m. on Jan. 25 when a deputy made visual contact with Westman, who got in a white passenger vehicle and drove off.
Westman is accused of leading multiple law enforcement agencies from Gamerco to Shiprock to Farmington, where authorities later lost him.
The agencies included the San Juan County and McKinley County sheriff's offices, the Farmington Police Department, the Shiprock Police Department and New Mexico State Police.
The second vehicle pursuit started the evening of Jan. 25 at the Valero Gas Station at 4913 E. Main St. in Farmington when authorities were searching the area for a white passenger vehicle driven by Westman.
Members of the U.S. Marshals Service South West Investigative Fugitive Team (SWIFT) Task Force approached Westman's vehicle to take him into custody after observing the vehicle at the gas station.
San Juan County Sheriff's Office Dep. Chad Langley, assigned to the SWIFT Task Force, and an agent for the Marshals Service approached the vehicle.
Westman is accused of accelerating the vehicle and striking the USMS agent on the front-passenger side of the vehicle. Langley responded by firing rounds from his rifle at the vehicle, striking Westman once in the right arm.
Langley is on paid administrative leave, and the number of shots fired by the deputy is still under investigation, according to Detective Lt. Kyle Lincoln of the San Juan County Sheriff's Office.
After he was taken into custody, Westman was transported to the San Juan Regional Medical Center for treatment and was released to police custody.
The New Mexico State Police filed 12 charges against Westman on Tuesday, including a fourth-degree felony count of aggravated fleeing a law enforcement officer, according to the criminal complaint.
The remaining 11 charges are a mixture of misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor charges that allegedly stem from the second vehicle pursuit on Jan. 25.
Westman is accused of a total of 27 charges from the two vehicle pursuits, according to court records.
After being shot, Westman is accused of leading authorities on a pursuit that ended when his vehicle was rammed just north of the intersection of U.S. Highway 64 and County Road 350.
He will be held without bond pending trial, according to San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien.
That decision was made during a hearing this afternoon regarding Westman's conditions in Aztec District Court before Chief District Judge Karen Townsend.
O'Brien did not know which detention center would hold Westman pending trial, but it would not impact court proceedings because San Juan County and McKinley County are both in the 11th Judicial District.
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.