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District Attorney clears Las Cruces Police officers involved in deadly shooting

Four Las Cruces Police officers have been cleared in the deadly shooting of a man close to Las Cruces High School last September.

The Doña Ana County District Attorney’s office cited lapel camera video in their decision to not pursue charges, writing in a statement the force of use was justified.

The DA’s office wrote 32-year-old Juan Angel Piñedo did not obey police when ordered to abandon a handgun multiple times. They said Piñedo lunged toward the handgun and the four officers then opened fire. Pinedo died from the multiple gunshot wounds.

“I don’t think the officers had a choice in the situation,” Chief Patrick Gallagher told the media in October. “He was given twelve commands to comply with their commands. He chose not to for whatever reason.”

The shooting happened on the west side of the Las Cruces High School campus, killing Piñedo, who police say was a fugitive. Police say he at one point ran through the baseball field at Las Cruces High with students all around.

“(Officers) were faced with protecting those dozens of people, some children on the fields of Las Cruces High School,” Gallagher said. “Difficult decision to say the least.”

A total of four officers fired 18 rounds, four of which struck the suspect, Gallagher said.

“We were unable to get everybody into safety by the time this happened,” Gallagher said. “That’s how dynamic this was. This man was running through the streets of Las Cruces armed with a gun for approximately thirty minutes.”

Police said the department was already looking for Piñedo, who had an active felony warrant for his arrest from a shooting six days earlier on September 21, 2018. Piñedo allegedly pointed a handgun at his ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend on the 200 block of Reymond Street. Police said the ex-girlfriend intervened and Piñedo drove away. Witnesses indicate that as Piñedo drove away, he fired two rounds into the sky.

Soon after, investigators discovered Piñedo had an active protection order against him that prohibited him from possessing a handgun. On Septermber 22, 2018, a felony warrant was issued for Piñedo’s arrest.

Piñedo’s ex-girlfriend also reported hearing gunshots near her backyard during the early-morning hours of September 24, 2018. Investigators canvased the scene and located three spent shell casings behind her home. The 9 mm shell casings were the same caliber casings from the shooting on September 21, 2018, police said.

The four officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave during the investigation, but have since returned to regular duty.

Police officials identified the officers involved in the shooting as Nathan Krause, a 10-year veteran with LCPD; Manuel Frias, an 11-year veteran; Keegan Arbogast, employed by LCPD for four years; and Sgt. Tate McBride, an eleven-year veteran with LCPD.

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