Man holding a machete and makeshift shield is fatally shot by New Mexico State police
At 3:10 am, Roberto Armijo got out of his car with a machete over his head and a makeshift shield tied to his arm.
A minute later, three tactical officers fired — one with less deadly bullets and two with duty rifles, according to the videos and an incident report published in the Journal in response to a Public Records Control Act request.
Armijo died at the scene.
This was the culmination of an hour-long SWAT standoff, in the early morning hours of November 17, when the New Mexico State Police Crisis Negotiation Team attempted to surrender the 34-year-old after he crashed into his car while trying to escape. A traffic stop in northeast Albuquerque.
Hours after the shootout, Chief of Police Tim Johnson said, “Tactical officers first tried to use less-lethal pear bullets on the issue. We’re still investigating this – whether it was successful – but I assume it wasn’t because shortly after two of our officers fired their duty rifles, shooting the now-dead suspect.
However, multiple lavalier videos and a timeline of events suggests it was Sergeant. Armando Reyes-Llamas and Officer Dominique Meadows shot Armijo, while Officer Kyle King used a less deadly beanbag shotgun. The shooting volley takes less than three seconds.
State Police spokesman Officer Ray Wilson said the decision to use lethal force was made in response to questions from officers about whether they should simply use less lethal force or wait before using lethal force to see if the less lethal force works. Made by each officer “based on the circumstances, including but not limited to the seriousness of the offense in question, and whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others.”
Two hours of negotiation
The incident involving Armijo began shortly before 11 PM when a police officer suspected of driving while intoxicated near Louisiana and Montgomery, NE pulled him over.
Authorities said the officer tried to negotiate with Armijo until it was revealed that he was taking drugs and turned his car around and crashed into police units. He ran over a tire extinguisher set up by officers and crashed across the street near the entrance to a Smith’s grocery store.
Sergeant Janice Madrid, the Commander for Crisis Negotiations at the New Mexico State Police, negotiated with him through the car window for two hours.
Expressing her concerns about advising Armijo to call her mother, she had taken over the first officer’s communications hours earlier – he said there was “potential for an adverse outcome”.
Armijo had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and continued to accuse officers of working with the cartel. He said the cartel killed his mother.
Meanwhile, officers had called Armijo’s mother 16 times to find out more about his mood. He was safe, and later told the Journal that his son had spent the night at his sister’s house to allay his fears.
According to reports and collar camera videos, Armijo at one point in his car donned a bandana over his face and was armed with a makeshift shield he made from a wooden closet door, on which he had a machete and a strap over his arm. An officer called a clinical psychologist who works with the State Police Crisis Negotiation Team, but did not answer.
Communication with Madrid stopped.
So the team decided to deploy chemical munitions, and Madrid left the area wearing a gas mask to protect himself.
“I tried,” he told a police officer as he prepared to plant the chemicals. “Sorry, I tried.”
The lavalier video shows two police officers positioned on the left side of the BearCat, in line of sight of the driver-side door of Armijo’s car. Six people gathered on the other side, including King, Reyes-Llamas, and Meadows, as well as an officer accompanied by a K9 and another on the BearCat.
Armijo got off on the passenger side and scrambled away from the car, holding his machete and shield, before the gunfire rang out.
Rook, an armored vehicle, fell to the ground as he appeared on it.
An autopsy revealed that he was hit by six bullets in the leg, arm, chest and abdomen.