Skip to Content
Crime

‘I’m going to f***ing choke you out, bro’: Las Cruces officer’s words to suspect before use of deadly neck restraint

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico — Las Cruces police on Monday released a photograph of an officer accused of involuntary manslaughter as video of the deadly encounter with a man who led police on a foot chase also came to light.

“I’m going to f***ing choke you out, bro,” Officer Christoper Smelser is heard saying to Antonio Valenzuela before utilizing a vascular neck restraint, now banned by the police department, that the state medical investigator says resulted in a homicide.

(Officer Christopher Smelser. Photo: LCPD)

District Attorney Mark D’Antonio announced late last week that his office was filing the manslaughter charge against Smelser for the Feb. 29 death of the 40-year-old Valenzuela, who had a parole violation warrant against him when he ran from officers following a traffic stop.

Authorities have said that police gave chase after Valenzuela fled on foot. They twice used their Tasers, but say Valenzuela continued struggling to get away. At one point, Smelser restrained Valenzuela by the neck to gain control. He became unresponsive and paramedics were unable to revive him.

After reviewing the autopsy report, Police Chief Patrick Gallagher said late last week that it was in the best interest of the department and the community to relieve Smelser of his duties and issued a letter of intent to terminate the officer’s employment. A four-year veteran with the department, Smelser had been on administrative leave since Feb. 29 pending the outcome of the autopsy report.

Following Valenzuela’s death, the police department said it began prohibiting the use of neck restraints during apprehensions.

New Mexico State Police and a regional task force investigated Valenzuela’s death.

According to the autopsy report, Valenzuela had hemorrhaging in his eyes and eyelids, which is indicative of asphyxiation and may occur when the neck or chest is compressed. His neck had a deep muscle hemorrhage, his Adam’s apple was crushed and his ribs were fractured. There also was swelling in his brain.

The report states methamphetamine played a role in his death, explaining that the presence of the drug can cause a rapid heart rate, high blood pressure and an increased demand of oxygen. The meth likely placed increased stress on Valenzuela’s cardiovascular system, according to the report.

The Las Cruces police custody death comes as advocates for police reform across the U.S. call for authorities to end the use of chokeholds in the wake of George Floyd’s death after a Minneapolis officer pressed his knee into his neck. Floyd’s death has sparked worldwide protests.

Sylvia Montoya, Valenzuela’s aunt, said she doesn’t want another family to go through what her family has gone through.

“I don’t want to hear of another death at the hands of an officer. It’s not right,” she said.

Valenzuela lived with his grandparents and was a father to four children. Court records show he had a history of drug possession charges and minor traffic violations. Police report Valenzuela was found with a crystal-like substance the day he ran from officers.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

New Mexico / News / Top Stories

Jim Parker

Jim Parker is the Director of Digital Content for ABC-7.

Comments

18 Comments

  1. What? This happened in a democrat controlled police department? I guess you can say the democrats run a systemic racial department. Who knew?

  2. Still wondering why it took them all this time to make a determination in this man’s death. Sounds very political to me. Also, thinking that had he not started running and then resisted arrest, he might have been alive today. The sleeper hold may or may not have been warranted at that time. Not saying it was right or wrong. Hindsight is always 20/20.

      1. Certainly. The leaders that be (democrats) wanted to make sure this incident simmer until the media made it it’s priority on the news for all to see. The cop will be crucified. Notice the choke hold was not removed from use until this happened. Now ask yourself, how long has this use of the choke hold been in practice?
        Wish someone would use the choke hold on alberto muerto. Oh right. Hard to find the throat of slime.

  3. “Court records show he had a history of drug possession charges and minor traffic violations. Police report Valenzuela was found with a crystal-like substance the day he ran from officers.”
    Damn this sounds familiar, over and over, and over, and over. Compile with a poorly democrat police force and this is the result. But don’t distress. Blame Mr. Trump.

  4. The days of pretty boys sitting in a car, milking overtime, beating people, killing people, lying on reports, etc are OVER. Exploitation of Americans with the pretext of “protecting you”. I can protect myself! Don’t need a cop that’s late 4hrs when called for a home invasion.

      1. wake, word of advise. You really don’t want to meet alberto muerto. If you do wear protective clothing that will protect you from the highest form of radiation and parasitical germs. And the smell, my God the smell. Good luck.

  5. Police are are all worthless. If your house is robbed all they do is make a police report. If you are being assaulted you better defend yourself any way you can because they won’t get there till 30 minutes later. They are not even good for traffic control. A little fender bender and they close the freeway for 4 hours. All they do is try to look tough so they can scare bad guys away. But just wait until you disobey one of them, and they go Ultimate Fighting Championship on you and your grandmother. Go to any inner city and you can see that the cops are afraid of gangs and will instead go to areas where they can just cruise and get paid. No thanks. I’ll just take care of myself best way I can.

    1. Hey Alberto is preaching to the choir again. Still butt hurt about that last speeding ticket you got. But I agree with one part. When seconds matter police are only minutes away.

    2. ux talks like the voice of too many run ins with the cops. Lost every case I bet. Yes blame it all on cops just like you blame everything on Mr Trump. Oh that’s right, Mr Trump closed the freeway for a fender bender. You know the one. The one the cops don’t want innocent drivers to get hurt. The one that steers traffic out of the scene so the people involved can get their business done and out of the way. My how public safety disturbs you.

Leave a Reply

Skip to content