DEMING, N.M. – New Mexico was in mourning Friday over the shooting death of a State Police officer in a highway-stop confrontation linked by authorities to drug trafficking that touched off a 40-mile police chase. Officials say the attacker was killed in a shootout with police at Las Cruces, where another officer was wounded.
The officer killed Thursday was identified as Darian Jarrott, who joined the State Police in 2015 after previously working as state transportation inspector and local law enforcement officer.
The attacker was identified by authorities as Omar Felix Cueva, 39.
Jarrott, who was assisting U.S. Homeland Security Investigations on Thursday, made the traffic stop on Interstate 10 in southern Luna County between the cities of Las Cruces and Deming in New Mexico, a state police statement said.
A Homeland Security agent who arrived at the initial shooting scene notified the state police. After a state police officer spotted Cueva’s pickup, officers from multiple law enforcement agencies chased it to the Las Cruces area.
Tire deflation devices and other maneuvers were used to force the fleeing vehicle off the highway, and there was a final exchange of gunfire, the statement said.
Cueva was killed. A Las Cruces police officer was shot — injuries that Las Cruces police spokesman Danny Trujillo said were not life-threatening.
Various shooting scenes extended for about 40 miles (65 kilometers).
The state police statement did not indicate whether the traffic stop was related to Jarrott’s providing assistance to Homeland Security. But New Mexico State Police Chief Robert Thornton told reporters that Cueva was on his way to Las Cruces to do a drug deal.
A U.S. Border Patrol agent assisted local and state police agencies in the highway pursuit of Cueva.
Cueva had “violent criminal history,” including drug trafficking charges, but not in New Mexico, Thornton said.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered all flags at state buildings lowered to half-staff from Friday to Tuesday in honor of Jarrott.
“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,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement.
Jarrott was from the small community of Lordsburg and was stationed in Deming.
Thornton said the officer had a reputation for always having a smile on his face.
“Even when there was a situation that was tough, the guy was always smiling,” Thornton said.