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No bond for former officer in vehicular homicide

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A former Alamogordo police officer who was intoxicated while he allegedly rear-ended a vehicle resulting in the death of one man and injuries to two other people, will remain held without bond pending trial.

Luke Towner (Submitted Photo)

Judge Kea Riggs of New Mexico’s 5th Judicial District Court, at a hearing Tuesday granted the motion filed by the Chaves County District Attorney’s office for the pretrial detention of Luke Maxwell Towner, 30, of Tularosa.

Towner is charged with one count of vehicular homicide, one count of aggravated driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs and one count of great bodily harm by a vehicle while driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs.

Representatives with the Alamogordo Police Department’s personnel division said Tuesday that Towner had been an officer with the department from 2013 to 2016.

Towner was allegedly traveling in his Toyota Tundra at a speed of about 70 mph in a 35 mph zone, when he rear-ended a Hyundai Genesis that had stopped for a traffic light at the intersection of Southeast Main and Hobbs streets. The detective later said that evidence of no brake marks suggested that Towner had not braked just before he hit the truck, according to the affidavit.

Douglas Annis, 26, of Roswell, who was seated in the backseat of the Hyundai, was pronounced dead at the scene from the injuries he sustained. The 46-year-old female driver of the Hyundai and a 28-year-old man from Las Cruces who was in the passenger seat of the Hyundai were later transported to Eastern New Mexico Medical Center to receive treatment for their injuries.

A third car, a red Chevy sedan that was waiting at the light when the Tundra allegedly rear-ended the Hyundai, was also allegedly struck on the passenger’s side by Towner. No one in the Chevy was injured, according to court documents.

A traffic officer with the Roswell Police Department who was at the scene of the accident, was the only witness called by Matthew Stone, Chaves County assistant district attorney, at Tuesday’s hearing to provide testimony. Franz Von Hoffman, defense attorney representing Towner, did not call any witnesses.

When questioned by Stone at Tuesday’s hearing, the officer said that when he made contact with Towner at the scene of the accident, Towner repeatedly said he was drunk and had been responsible for the accident.

Towner admitted to police that he had consumed whiskey because his ex-wife had been upset with him earlier in the day.

Stone urged the court to grant the state’s motion for pretrial detention, arguing that based on Towner’s actions, he represents a danger to the public and that no reasonable conditions of release could keep the public safe.

He added that there was no way to prevent Towner from again consuming alcohol and becoming involved in another accident.

Any kind of monitoring device would require reporting and would only let authorities know Towner had been involved in an incident after it had happened and wouldn’t prevent him from engaging in behavior such as driving while intoxicating, Stone said.

Von Hoffman cited Towner’s lack of prior criminal history to argue his client did not represent a danger to the public and that conditions of release could be devised to limit Towner’s movement.

He added that Towner owns a house in Tularosa and is now employed as a terminal manager for a company in Carlsbad.

Von Hoffman said applying the state’s theory that Towner represents a danger to the community — that standard would have to apply to all people who face charges of driving while intoxicated.

Stone replied not all incidents involving someone charged with driving intoxicated are as severe as in this case, where one person died and two others were injured. Monitoring devices might work in some incidents, but Towner got intoxicated and then drove a vehicle because he was upset and in the wake of such serious charges, it could happen again.

Riggs, in the end, sided with the prosecution. She said comparing the incident in the case to most incidents of driving while intoxicated is like comparing apples and oranges.

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