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Man who allegedly threatens firefighter pleads not guilty

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A man arrested for allegedly threatening behavior toward fire personnel while they were trying to put out a fire, pleaded not guilty to three criminal counts Wednesday at an arraignment in Chaves County Magistrate Court.

Craig Eberhart, 30, of Roswell, pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanors: interference with bomb or fire control and resisting, evading or obstructing an officer; and one petty misdemeanor: possession of a switchblade, according to court documents.

Following the arraignment, Eberhart was released on his own recognizance. A pretrial hearing on the charges is scheduled for Dec. 18.

The charges stem from an incident that occurred on the morning of Nov. 18, when personnel from the Berrendo and Sierra volunteer fire departments responded to a fire engulfing three vehicles on a property east of Old Clovis Highway.

A criminal complaint filed in Magistrate Court states law enforcement were later called to the scene, after Eberhart allegedly threatened one of the firefighters. According to a statement made by the firefighter, Eberhart — who had a switchblade knife in his possession at the time — told the firefighter that he “better not put the fire out.”

The firefighter said that after allegedly making the threat, Eberhart crossed the street and was not seen for some time, according to the complaint. Eberhart was later spotted by Chaves County Sheriff’s deputies sprinting through a field toward the property where the fire was burning.

A deputy then encountered Eberhart just inside the property. Eberhart asked the deputy what was going on. When the deputy told him of the vehicles that were on fire, Eberhart did not seem interested and said he was going to get some water, according to the complaint.

The deputy allegedly advised Eberhart he could not go onto the scene. Eberhart then allegedly tried walking past the deputy who then unholstered his taser and commanded Eberhart to stop.

The complaint states the deputy was able to gain enough compliance from Eberhart that the deputy was able to get him to relinquish the switchblade. Eberhart said he was going to leave, but the deputy ordered him not to leave.

Eberhart then allegedly began to walk toward fire personnel, and the complaint states the deputy warned that if he did not stop, he would be tasered. According to the complaint, Eberhart allegedly kept walking toward fire personnel and was subsequently tasered.

Sheriff Mike Herrington later said that Eberhart was taken to a hospital. After he was medically cleared, he was then taken to the Chaves Country Detention Center.

Herrington said Monday the cause of the fire is believed to have been accidental and that Eberhart is a relative of the property owner where the fire occurred.

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