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Gunshot victim left in vehicle for two hours at medical clinic before being found

Victim in stable but critical condition at Albuquerque hospital

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • Andrew Whittenberg, 30, is accused of five charges including a second-degree felony count of vehicle theft, a third-degree felony count of aggravated battery and two fourth-degree felony counts of tampering with evidence, according to the criminal complaint.
  • Victim John Chavez was transported to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, where he was in stable but critical condition on Aug. 3.
  • Whittenberg was released from the New Mexico Department of Corrections on May 5 to start serving five years of supervised probation, according to court documents.

FARMINGTON — Court documents detail the serious injuries a shooting victim suffered on July 31 before being left unattended in an SUV at a medical clinic in Farmington. Police say the man they think shot him had escaped from an Albuquerque transitional living program in June.

Andrew Whittenberg, 30, is accused of shooting 28-year-old John Chavez, stealing a Dodge Charger, possessing an AR-15 style rifle as a convicted felon and disposing of evidence, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

Whittenberg could face more than 13 years in a state prison for allegedly violating his probation. He is accused of five charges, including a second-degree felony count of vehicle theft, a third-degree felony count of aggravated battery and two fourth-degree felony counts of tampering with evidence, according to the criminal complaint.

Andrew Whittenberg

There was no last known address for Whittenberg in the criminal complaint or affidavit.

Whittenberg did not have legal representation on the afternoon of Aug. 3.

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Victim left alone in vehicle

The Farmington Police Department and the San Juan County Sheriff's Office were dispatched around 3:49 p.m. on July 31 to San Juan Health Partners Urgent Care at 4820 E. Main St. in Farmington on reports of a man who had been shot. 

Chavez was found in the rear seat of an SUV, according to court documents. It was later learned he had been in the vehicle for almost two hours before he was located.

The affidavit states a woman drove Chavez to urgent care but did not stay with him nor contact staff about the shooting victim.

Sheriff's Office spokesperson Jayme Harcrow told The Daily Times that the agency is still investigating how Chavez was left in a parked vehicle for two hours before being found.

She added Farmington police initially responded to the call and that deputies became involved once it was determined the shooting occurred in the Sheriff's Office's jurisdiction.

Chavez complained of pain and said that his legs could not move. His gunshot wound was located in the lower, right part of his chest.

Chavez told law enforcement Whittenberg shot him and was driving a gray Dodge Charger, a court document stated. Chavez was then transported from the scene to San Juan Regional Medical Center. 

Chavez was later taken to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, where he was in stable but critical condition on Aug. 3.

The affidavit stated Chavez was sedated, intubated and had one kidney removed during surgery, and the projectile that struck him was still inside his body. A female relative of Chavez was interviewed over the phone. She said Chavez told her on the phone he was shot, then sent her a text message that Whittenberg shot him.

The investigation led law enforcement to a residence on County Road 3536 in Flora Vista. Five people were at the residence, including Whittenberg. The woman who drove an injured Chavez to urgent care was also located.

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A male witness saw Whittenberg park at the residence earlier in the day, remove a rifle from the trunk of the Dodge Charger and walk around the residence out of view, according to court documents.

A few minutes later Whittenberg ran inside the residence all sweaty, stating he shot Chavez, and a woman drove Chavez to urgent care, the man told investigators.

A cause for the incident was not identified in the affidavit.

The firearm was not located by law enforcement, but the Dodge Charger was later located and determined to be stolen.

Whittenberg was booked around 2:42 a.m. on Aug. 1 into the San Juan County Adult Detention Center, according to jail records.

The affidavit describes a brief interaction with law enforcement and Whittenberg, but no interview was included in the court filing.

Criminal history

Whittenberg has nine felony convictions on his record, including three for burglary, two for vehicle thefts and one for escaping from custody.

Whittenberg was released from the New Mexico Department of Corrections on May 5 to start serving five years of supervised probation, according to court documents.

A district court judge sentenced him on May 4, 2015, to 18 years and six months in a state prison but suspended all but five years.

A June 18 motion claims the defendant removed his GPS monitor in the early hours of June 8 and fled an Albuquerque transitional living program.

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It also states Whittenberg tested positive for methamphetamine on June 5.

The motion seeks to revoke Whittenberg's probation and have him serve the remaining 13 years and six months of his prison sentence.

No hearing on the motion has been scheduled.

Whittenberg made his first appearance in Aztec Magistrate Court on the afternoon of Aug. 3. His preliminary hearing is set for the morning of Aug. 13 in Aztec Magistrate Court.

He remains at the county jail on a no-bond hold as of the afternoon of Aug. 3.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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