SANTA FE, N.M. >> Law enforcement agencies were searching the Santa Fe area for a suspected kidnapper whose flight from police into oncoming traffic led to fatal car crashes Wednesday, killing a police officer pursuing him as well as at least one motorist who had nothing to do with the chase.
Police on Wednesday night identified the officer killed as Robert Duran, a 43-year-old senior officer assigned to the department’s patrol section.
They said Duran joined the department in January 2015. He leaves behind a wife and two teenage sons.
“Officer Duran was well respected and loved by his peers,” Santa Fe interim Police Chief Paul Joye said. “We as a department and as individuals are still grieving and processing his loss.”
Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber vowed to deliver justice to the fallen officer as police from multiple agencies continued the search.
“Let there be no doubt that the combined law enforcement officers who are now working on this will find the suspect. Justice will be done,” Webber said in a statement.
The kidnapping was reported about 11 a.m. at an apartment complex where a man armed with a knife allegedly stole a vehicle occupied by a woman.
Officers unsuccessfully tried to stop the vehicle, but the driver got onto Interstate 25, police said. Heading into oncoming traffic, police said the suspect drove south toward Albuquerque in the northbound lane.
The chase soon led to a crash involving four vehicles: two driven by police, one by the suspect with the victim inside, and another vehicle, police said.
Police said Wednesday afternoon that two people died in the crash, including another motorist in the fourth car who wasn’t involved in the chase.
“I am deeply saddened by the death of a Santa Fe police officer today while in the line of duty, as well as the tragic death of another motorist,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement.
Police said the suspect managed to get away.
The kidnapping victim also managed to exit the vehicle and was taken to a hospital. Her name also wasn’t immediately released.
Police were asking area residents to stay in their homes as they searched for the suspect, while cellphones buzzed across the county with an emergency alert warning people to avoid the interstate, now a sprawling crime scene.
Mikaela McCray, a hostess at a restaurant near the crash scene, said the highway was full of police vehicles including at least one helicopter overhead.