LAS CRUCES, NM (KTSM) - The Las Cruces Police officer who shot and killed murder suspect Nathaniel Montoya outside a Valero gas station in February has been cleared by the Third Judicial District Attorney's Office.
“After an extensive review of this case we have concluded that the shooting by Officer Joseph Campa was justified under New Mexico law. This office will not be taking any action against this officer,” District Attorney Mark D'Antonio wrote in a letter late last week.
Campa, a seven-year veteran of the Las Cruces Police Department was not wearing a body camera at the time of the shooting, which is protocol with the Department. According to investigators, he had been working earlier in the day as part of the initial crime scene investigation and left his lapel camera to charge in its docking station prior to the shooting.
The incident began Feb. 16 after police responded to the shooting death of Abraham Gomez, 29, in the 2300 block of Sambrano Avenue. Witnesses identified Montoya as the man Gomez was in an argument with before he was shot.
Police allege Montoya fled the scene and later stole an abandoned minivan on Bataan Memorial East between Roadrunner Parkway and Rinconada East.
Around noon the following day, investigators were notified by the owner of the minivan that it had been stolen. The owners told police that they had trouble with it in the rain the day before and left it there. Police believe Montoya may have swapped out the battery in order to get the van running.
Later that day, an LCPD officer spotted Montoya driving the minivan on Galina Drive and began to pull Montoya over, but Montoya refused to stop.
A police chase ensued with Montoya and LCPD officers speeding through the city at speeds of over 60 miles per hour, eventually heading to the Valero gas station at 1401 E. Lohman Avenue.
Surveillance camera footage released on Wednesday show Montoya speeding into the Valero station, crashing into several cars.
Investigators say Officer Campa pinned his unit next to the minivan, exited his unit and gave several commands for Montoya to show his hands. Investigators believe that’s when Montoya raised a .22 caliber rifle and pointed it toward the officer. Campa fired several shots, striking Montoya. He was later pronounced dead on the scene.
The modified .22 shotgun was later located between the two front seats of the minivan.
A pedestrian who was standing between two vehicles when Montoya smashed into the Valero parking lot suffered minor injuries. No other injuries were reported.
Campa returned to regular duty in late February after the investigation was turned over to the District Attorney's Office for review.