Originally published on October 30, 2014, at NationofChange.org
A Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Deputy has been charged with murder after gunning down his colleague at a hotel in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Deputy Jeremy Martin had been fleeing towards the elevator when Deputy Tai Chan shot him multiple times in the back and arm. Las Cruces Police officers found Martin in the hotel lobby and transported him to MountainView Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
After transporting a prisoner to a detention facility in Safford, Arizona, Santa Fe County Sheriff’s deputies Martin and Chan stopped in Las Cruces and booked room 711 at Hotel Encanto around 4pm on Monday. According to Chan’s friend, Joshua Sexauer, the off-duty deputies were already drinking when he picked them up from the hotel. They went to three different bars including Dublin’s Street Pub where the deputies got into a heated argument and the bartender had to physically separate them.
Sexauer left the bar and later received a phone call from Chan’s girlfriend, Leah Tafoya. At 12:31am, Tafoya asked Sexauer to check on Chan. She had just been on the phone with Chan when she heard someone yelling, “Please don’t, please don’t!”
Then she heard gunshots.
According to witnesses, the deputies returned to Hotel Encanto at midnight and continued arguing in their hotel room on the 7th floor. As Martin fled from room 711, Chan fired at least six shots into the walls and Martin’s back and arm. Bleeding profusely, Martin reached the elevator, descended several floors, and eventually collapsed in the hotel lobby.
According to 911 calls, Chan began roaming the 7th floor hallway knocking on doors. He identified himself as a law enforcement officer and ordered the other guests to open their doors. No one complied because Chan was visibly drunk, out of uniform, and brandishing a firearm.
Las Cruces Police officers arrived to find Martin lying in a pool of blood in the lobby. As Martin was being transported to a local hospital, officers located Chan in a stairwell near the roof. Chan surrendered without incident, and his department-issued Glock semiautomatic pistol was found nearby along with several shell casings and bloodstains near room 711.
The arresting officers noticed Chan reeked of alcohol and had been slurring his speech. On his way to the police station, Chan admitted, “I shot the guy.” He told a Las Cruces Police officer that Martin was his friend and asked someone to check on his girlfriend.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Santa Fe County Sheriff Robert Garcia told reporters that Chan did not have a history of disciplinary problems. In fact, Sheriff Garcia recently commended Chan for returning a stolen safe to a family whose house had been burglarized.
“We are in shock, and I am at a loss for words,” said Sheriff Garcia.
Chan has been charged with murder and booked into the Dona Ana County Detention Center without bond.
Martin leaves behind his wife, Sarah, and their three young children. They had recently learned Sarah is pregnant with a fourth child.
“He was a self-sacrificing kind of a person and put everyone else first,” Sarah Martin reminisced on her husband. “He was very well-balanced as far as family and career. He had a big heart and gave everyone the benefit of the doubt.”