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Man found guilty of firing at Chaves County deputy

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A man accused of shooting at a Chaves County deputy during a July 2017 incident and later attempting to dispose of the weapon was found guilty Tuesday on two criminal charges.

The jury found Chadwick Taylor, 42, of Lovington, guilty on one count of aggravated assault upon a peace officer with a deadly weapon, and one count of tampering with evidence, J. Michael Thomas, Chaves County assistant district attorney and prosecutor in the trial, said in an interview Wednesday.

The jury trial was initially scheduled for two days — Tuesday and Wednesday — but it finished a day early.

“We got through all of the testimony and had closing arguments yesterday (Tuesday) and the jury got the case and they had a verdict back by 5:30,” Thomas said.

Calls to Debra Lautenschlager, Taylor’s attorney, were not returned before press time Wednesday.

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Thomas said Judge James Hudson, who presided over the trial, will determine the sentence at a later hearing. Hudson ordered that Taylor undergo a 60-day diagnostic evaluation before the sentencing, which will be the basis for a report that will then go to both the prosecution and Hudson.

A hearing will then be scheduled likely sometime within the next 80 days, where the sentence will be handed down, Thomas said.

In all, four witnesses were called to testify by the state — three law enforcement officers and one civilian. Taylor took the stand and was the only witness called by the defense.

Taylor is accused of opening fire on Mike Ray, a deputy sergeant with the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, during a July 26, 2017, encounter on Highway 380 near milepost 195 at the Tatum rest stop in Chaves County.

In his opening statement, Thomas told the jury that on the day of the incident, the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office received several calls about a man — later identified as Taylor — with blood on him and barefoot, carrying boots while walking alongside the road.

Ray, in uniform and in his marked Chaves County Sheriff’s unit with the lights on, then approached Taylor who was sitting on the side of the road. Thomas said Ray then emerged from the unit and walked over to Taylor to make sure he was alright.

When Ray asked Taylor if he was alright, Taylor responded by telling Ray, “I don’t like you.” Taylor then got up and walked away, but Ray told him to come back and talk. Taylor then reached into his boot and pulled out a handgun.

Court documents state Taylor then fired at Ray five or six times. Thomas said Ray returned fire once with the round hitting the ground in front of Taylor. Taylor then put his gun back in his boot and then ran off into the desert.

A manhunt ensued and Taylor was later found and taken into custody. The state also argued that Taylor tried to dispose of the gun in the desert. Thomas told the jury the actions taken by Taylor caused Ray to fear for his life or great bodily harm.

In her opening statement, Lautenschlager said that “there are two sides to every situation.”

She said on the day of the incident in question, Taylor was sitting on the side of the street not causing harm to anyone or in distress when Ray approached him.

“He is not in distress and he tells the officer — he doesn’t use pleasant language — but he says, ‘I don’t want to talk to you,’ and he walks away,” Lautenschlager said. Ray then ordered Taylor to come back after he started to walk away and had his hand on his gun when he did so.

Lautenschlager also said in her opening argument the calls made reporting the incident described “there was something not right” about Taylor as he was walking down the street. She added the deputies and officers who responded to the situation had not had any proper training on how to deal with someone who could be facing a mental health issue and that none of that was taken into consideration when deputies approached Taylor.

“Think about the evidence as it unfolds, remember there are two sides to everything,” Lautenschlager said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com. 

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