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Press Release

Alleged Shooter of New Mexico Police Officer Charged with Federal Firearms and Carjacking Offenses

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

Ohio Man to be Prosecuted Under Federal “Worst of the Worst” Anti-Violence Initiative

Jesse Denver Hanes, 38, of Columbus, Ohio, has been charged with federal firearms and carjacking offenses arising out of an Aug. 12, traffic stop in Hatch, New Mexico, during which Hanes allegedly shot and killed Hatch Police Officer Jose Chavez and Hanes’ efforts to evade arrest following the shooting.  The federal charges against Hanes are contained in a criminal complaint filed this morning in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico.

The federal charges were announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez of the District of New Mexico and Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division.  Joining them in making the announcement were Third Judicial District Attorney Mark D’Antonio, Chief James Gimler of the Hatch Police Department, Chief Pete N. Kassetas of the New Mexico State Police and Doña Ana County Sheriff Enrique Vigil.

Hanes is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, carjacking and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.  The criminal complaint alleges that Hanes committed these crimes in Doña Ana County, New Mexico, on Aug. 12.  At the time, Hanes was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because of his status as a convicted felon.

Hanes was arrested this afternoon on the federal charges by the FBI at a hospital in El Paso, Texas, where he is recuperating from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  His initial appearance in federal court in Las Cruces, New Mexico, has yet to be scheduled.

In addition to the charges in the federal criminal complaint, Hanes has been charged with the first-degree murder of Officer Chavez in a criminal complaint filed in the Third Judicial District Court for the state of New Mexico in Doña Ana County.  The state’s murder investigation is continuing.  Hanes also is facing an unrelated murder charge in Ohio.     

According to the federal criminal complaint, on the afternoon of Aug. 12, Officer Chavez executed a traffic stop in Hatch on a Lexus driven by Hanes and in which two other men were passengers.  During the traffic stop, Hanes allegedly shot Officer Chavez in the upper torso.  Officer Chavez died later that night as a result of the gunshot wound.

The criminal complaint alleges that after Hanes and his passengers fled from the scene of the shooting in the Lexus, Hanes shot himself in the leg/groin-area.  After Hanes and his passengers parted company, Hanes stopped at a rest area near Radium Springs, New Mexico, where he allegedly shot a motorist and carjacked the motorist’s vehicle, a Chevrolet.  The motorist suffered a serious injury and remains hospitalized in stable condition.

Deputies of the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office located the Chevrolet allegedly carjacked by Hanes based on information provided by witnesses and gave chase.  The chase ended when Hanes crashed the Chevrolet.  After Hanes was taken into custody, a handgun, believed to be the firearm used to shoot Officer Chavez and the motorist, was recovered from the Chevrolet.

If convicted of the crimes charged in the federal criminal complaint, Hanes faces a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for unlawfully possessing a firearm and 25 years in prison on the carjacking charge.  If convicted for discharging a firearm during the carjacking, Hanes faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, which must be served consecutive to any sentence imposed on the other charges.   These potential penalties apply only to the federal charges and are beyond any penalties that may be imposed under state laws. 

Charges in criminal complaints are merely accusations, and criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The case was investigated by the Las Cruces office of the FBI, Hatch Police Department, Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico State Police, with assistance from the Third Judicial District Attorney’s Office.  The following agencies also assisted in the investigation:  Albuquerque and El Paso offices of the FBI, ATF, DEA, U.S. Marshals Service, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Border Patrol, Las Cruces Police Department, El Paso, Texas, County Sheriff’s Office and El Paso Police Department.  

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aaron O. Jordan and Marisa A. Ong of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office are prosecuting the case as part of a federal anti-violence initiative that targets “the worst of the worst” offenders for federal prosecution.  Under this initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies work with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders primarily based on their felony conviction records for federal prosecution with the goal of removing violent, repeat offenders from communities in New Mexico for as long as possible. 

Updated August 16, 2016