Española police officer shoots driver through the windshield when he pointed the rifle at police

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Newly released body camera video shows the moments an Española Police sergeant shot a man during a traffic stop in March. The shooting happened along N. Riverside Drive near Century Bank after officers responded to calls about a traffic hazard.

The suspect, 56-year-old Hilario Baca of Velarde survived his injuries. Baca was arraigned today, May 1, on a single count of aggravated assault upon a peace officer (deadly weapon.)

According to a criminal complaint, the shooting happened around 6:50 p.m. on March 28. Responding to a white Ford F-150 truck pulled over on the side of the road, officers found Baca behind the wheel of the vehicle. Video shows the truck facing against the flow of traffic, pointed southbound on the edge of the right-most northbound lane. Officers said multiple calls came in about the truck, where a driver was said to be “slumped over” behind the wheel.

Body camera video shows Española Police Officer Chris Garcia exiting his patrol vehicle. As Garcia approaches the truck, a person off-camera can be heard saying, “he has a rifle in the vehicle.” Responding, “he does?”, the video shows Garcia continues walking toward the driver’s door of the truck.

Within seconds, the video shows Garcia drawing his gun on Baca, saying, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, don’t reach for nothing, bro. Don’t reach for it.” According to a criminal complaint, investigators say Baca could “be seen reaching to his right-hand side” grabbing what was described as “a long metal item.”

The video shows Garcia backing away as the movement continues inside of the truck. Garcia can be heard saying “put it down” twice, before eventually turning his back and running from the truck. According to a criminal complaint, Española Police Sgt. James Mayers, who arrived seconds after Garcia, opened fire on Baca.

At least one shot hit Baca, who never fired his weapon. Video shows the rifle was eventually tossed to the ground as Baca got out of the truck, onto his knees, then on his back.

Minutes after the shooting, Sgt. Mayers explained what happened to Española Police Chief Mizel Garcia. Mayers said in part that Baca pointed the rifle out the window.

“Soon as we got out, he started to pull this gun out the window and started to point it towards us,” Sgt. Mayers said in his body camera video recording. “Wasn’t listening to commands to drop the gun, to drop the gun. Soon as he got the gun all the way out the window, I… I shot.”

The suspect, Baca, was treated for at least one gunshot wound on the scene before eventually being transported to the hospital. According to New Mexico State Police, Baca was then flown to an Albuquerque hospital for his injuries.

Court records indicate that 1st Judicial District Court Judge Jason Lidyard ordered Baca released from jail on his own recognizance around April 13. Part of Baca’s conditions of release includes an order to remain at home and not to drive while using medication. A judge has also ordered Baca to not possess any firearms while the case is pending.

New Mexico State Police are continuing to investigate the shooting. A district attorney will eventually determine if the shooting was justified.

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