Grand theft tractor: Man accused of trying to run over officer while fleeing
Defendant was wanted on seperate arrest warrant
FARMINGTON — Area law enforcement representatives discharged their firearms to shoot out the tires of a stolen tractor after the suspect tried to run over a state police officer with the vehicle while fleeing custody.
Caleb Hardman, 37, is accused of third-degree felony counts of aggravated assault upon a peace officer (deadly weapon) and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle (second offense), a fourth-degree felony count of aggravated fleeing a law enforcement officer and a misdemeanor count of resisting, evading or obstructing an officer, according to the criminal complaint.
Hardman did not have legal representation on June 4.
A San Juan County Sheriff's Office detective on June 2 was trying to locate Hardman due to his active warrant. A warrant had been issued against the defendant for failing to comply with his probation in a separate case.
The search for Hardman led law enforcement official to a row of trailers on South Church Street in Bloomfield.
A large John Deer tractor was observed in the area, which Hardman got into and started to drive toward U.S. Highway 550.
The owner of Aztec Rent-me told the detective the tractor was stolen, and Hardman was not allowed to possess it, according to the affidavit.
Hardman is accused of fleeing law enforcement, including deputies and New Mexico State Police.
The defendant allegedly fled police by getting onto U.S. Highway 550, then driving in the area of County Roads 4990 and 4980.
The affidavit states Hardman fled police by driving on county roads, unmarked oilfield roads and occasionally leaving the roadway to drive in a wash. He would allegedly use parts of the tractor to hurl debris and gravel at the vehicles pursuing him.
At one point, Hardman was driving toward multiple deputies and a state police officer. The defendant allegedly tried to run over the state police officer, coming within five feet of striking him with the bucket of the tractor.
Hardman allegedly refused commands to exit the tractor, which prompted three of the law enforcement officers to discharge their firearms, according to the San Juan County Sheriff's Office Facebook post.
A deputy with a shotgun and a deputy with a rifle fired at the tractor's tires as the state police officer fired a bean bag gun at Hardman.
The Facebook post stated Hardman tried to flee again on foot, and a stun gun was used on the defendant.
The John Deere tractor is valued about $140,000
Hardman's warrant stems from a Dec. 8, 2014, plea agreement in which Hardman was convicted of a second-degree felony count of larceny, according to court documents.
He was convicted of stealing a Caterpillar Motor Grader "blade" belonging to San Juan County, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.
He was incarcerated on June 4 at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center. A June 15 hearing in Aztec District Court is set for arraignment on his probation violation.
Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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