Farmington police identify Elias Buck as man accused of shooting police officer Friday

Police identify officer who was shot and is in stable condition

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • A warrant has been issued for Elias Buck, 22, of Durango, Colo. for allegedly shooting officer Joseph Barreto, 25, on the night of Jan. 7 in the area of East Main Street and North Tucker Avenue.
  • Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said in a video statement Barreto is undergoing surgery for his injuries at San Juan Regional Medical Center.
  • Buck is described as six feet, one inch tall, weighing about 185 pounds with blonde hair and green eyes.

FARMINGTON — The Farmington Police Department has named the man accused of shooting a Farmington officer and identified the officer, who is being treated at an area hospital.

The move came as the Farmington police chief issued an ultimatum that anyone who helps the suspect evade law enforcement will also face arrest for helping a man who almost killed a police officer.

A warrant has been issued for Elias Buck, 22, of Durango, Colorado, for allegedly shooting Officer Joseph Barreto, 25, on the night of Jan. 7 while in the vicinity of East Main Street and North Tucker Avenue, according to a Farmington Police Department news release.

Buck is accused of shooting Barreto around 10:18 p.m. Friday night as the officer investigated a report of a possible drunk driver.

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Elias Buck

"One officer contacted a man, later identified as Buck, and a woman, later identified as 28-year-old Victoria “Rossi” Hernandez, walking in the area who matched the description of the occupants of the car." a police department news release stated.

Buck is accused of pulling out a gun and firing multiple shots at Barreto, hitting him, according to the news release.

Police said Barreto returned fire and radioed for assistance as the two people left the scene.

The news release didn’t go into detail about Barreto’s injuries, stating that he was in stable condition.

Police say they have recovered the weapon used in the shooting.

Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said in a video statement that Barreto was at San Juan Regional Medical Center undergoing surgery for his injuries.

Hebbe told The Daily Times Buck is the same man who escaped from the La Plata County Jail on Dec. 27. The La Plata County Sheriff's Office on Jan. 6 posted on Facebook that Buck escaped from the jail and was possibly still in the Four Corners area. He is also wanted on several felony charges.

Buck wasn’t located following an exhaustive search by Farmington police, the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico State Police.

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Victoria "Rossi" Hernandez.

The Sheriff’s Office helicopter and state police drone operators assisted in the search for Buck.

Areas of North Fairview Avenue and North Tucker Avenue were searched, along with streets connecting East Main Street and East 20th Street.

Buck is described as six feet, one inch tall, weighing about 185 pounds with blonde hair and green eyes.

"He is dangerous and known to be armed," police said in a Facebook post Saturday afternoon.

Hernandez is also being sought and is considered a person of interest in the case.

If anyone has information on Buck and Hernandez’s whereabouts, they are asked to immediately call 911 or their local police department.  

Police chief addresses community about shooting

Hebbe and Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes both appeared in a Jan. 8 video posted to Facebook.

Mayes, on behalf of Farmington City Mayor Nate Duckett and the Farmington City Council, gave best wishes to Barreto and his family.

He added when he learned the news, his mind started to process the dangers that the Farmington officers are exposed to every night.

Mayes also thanked multiple area businesses, including Dunkin Donuts, Chick-Fil-A and Taco Bell, which helped support first responders as they searched for Buck following the shooting.

Hebbe spent his time in the video sharing information about Barreto, delivering an ultimatum to anyone who helps Buck evade capture and sharing his belief that police officers injured or killed in the line of duty don’t get enough coverage in the American media.

“He’s 25 years old. He’s actually just shy of his 26th birthday. He’s married. His wife was at the hospital with him last night,” Hebbe said about Barreto.

He added Barreto’s injuries are non-life-threatening but could have an impact on his career.

“We're hopeful. We'll see what the doctor says following surgery in the weeks ahead,” Hebbe said. “But obviously, the entire (Farmington police) family and really the entire city of Farmington have him and his family in our thoughts and prayers.”

The police chief seemed visibly angry as he sent a message to anyone who might help Buck evade law enforcement.

“I want to make this extremely clear. Anyone, anyone that aids or abets this gentleman in his efforts to flee law enforcement, we will find you, we will prosecute you and you will go to jail,” Hebbe said. “You will not aid and abet a man who attempted to murder a police officer. And we already know that that has happened.”

Hebbe mentioned in the video, and told The Daily Times, that hundreds of police officers are shot each year and don’t get the recognition or community support the deserve for protecting our communities.

“When something like this happens, we have to view it as it's an assault on all of us,” Hebbe said “When somebody is willing to shoot a police officer who's just doing his job, it is an assault on society. It is an assault on our rights and we have to view it more seriously.”

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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