LAS CRUCES, NM (KTSM) — A 40-year-old Las Cruces man died Saturday morning after a foot pursuit with a pair of Las Cruces Police officers.
Investigators with the New Mexico State Police Department are now investigating what led to the man’s death. They say it happened around 2:30 a.m. when an LCPD officer pulled over a blue GMC pickup truck for expired insurance at 240 Three Crosses Avenue in Las Cruces. During the traffic stop, the LCPD officer made contact with the three people inside the truck. Two women were in the front seat, and a man who was not wearing his seat belt was in the back seat.
The officers ran a check on the occupants of the truck and discovered the man in the backseat, identified as 40-year-old Antonio Valenzuela, had a valid bench warrant for his arrest from New Mexico Probation and Parole.
Valenzuela was asked to exit the truck, and when he did, he allegedly took off down the street on foot. During the chase, one of the officers deployed his taser at Valenzuela. Responding officers gained control of Valenzuela and handcuff him, although they reported he was combative throughout the entire arrest.
Once handcuffed, the officers reported Valenzuela became unresponsive. LCPD called for medical assistance, however, Valenzuela was pronounced dead at the scene.
Although police did not identify why Valenzuela had a warrant for his arrest, a search of the New Mexico Court database shows a warrant was issued in 2018 after Valenzuela stopped checking in with his parole officer following an arrest in 2016 for possession of heroin and methamphetamine during a traffic stop. He also had $2,500 hidden in a compartment behind the driver’s seat of his vehicle during the traffic stop.
The case is currently under investigation by New Mexico State Police Investigations Bureau. A full autopsy will be performed by the Office of the Medical Investigator. Names of the officers involved will not be released by state police until interviews have been conducted.