LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) — The jury trial for former Las Cruces police officer Christopher Smelser, who is accused of second-degree murder, was postponed to next year.
Smelser’s jury trial was scheduled for July 12, but it was rescheduled on Wednesday for Jan. 14, 2022.
Smelser allegedly killed Antonio Valenzuela on Feb. 29, 2020, while restraining him following a foot chase and struggle. The Las Cruces Police Department said Smelser used a vascular neck restraint, which had been prohibited.
Dr. Lauren Dvorscak, a state forensic pathologist, said Valenzuela’s death was caused by asphyxial injuries from restraint. Smelser told investigators he used his right arm to use the vascular neck restraint under Valenzuela’s chin, the affidavit said.
Valenzuela was pulled over for a traffic stop and had an open warrant for a parole violation. He allegedly fled on foot and officers used their tasers on him twice without any effect, a Dona Ana County District Attorney’s news release said.