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Man arrested after stealing RPD patrol unit

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Photos Courtesy Sheriff Mike Herrington In these June 4 file photos, a unit belonging to the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, which collided with a utility pole on Country Club Road and Washington Avenue after attempting to avoid hitting a civilian vehicle during a pursuit involving a stolen Roswell Police Department vehicle. Judge Thomas Lilley of New Mexico's 5th Judicial District at a hearing Tuesday granted a motion for pre-trial detention of Luiz Gauna, 34, of Roswell, who was charged in connection with the incident.

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A Roswell man faces several criminal charges after allegedly stealing a Roswell police unit Thursday, setting off a high-speed pursuit that ended in Eddy County and left four people, including the suspect, injured.

Luiz Gauna, 33, is charged with one count each of aggravated battery upon a peace officer, using a deadly weapon; unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and aggravated fleeing of a law enforcement officer, according to a press release from the New Mexico State Police, who are leading the investigation. Additional charges are possible as the investigation continues.

Gauna was later treated for injuries, as was a Chaves County deputy, a Roswell police officer and a female whose vehicle Gauna tried to enter.

Chaves County Sheriff Mike Herrington said Thursday night a deputy was injured during the pursuit after crashing a sheriff’s unit into a utility pole in the area of Country Club Road and Washington Avenue to avoid a collision with a civilian vehicle. The deputy was later treated at a local hospital for what Herrington described as moderate head injuries.

Gauna, who crashed the patrol unit, was airlifted to an El Paso hospital to be treated for injuries believed to be non-life-threatening.

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As of Friday afternoon, electronic court records did not list a specific attorney representing Gauna, who could not be reached for comment about the charges.

The NMSP release states an officer in a patrol unit stopped to speak to Gauna in the area of East Albuquerque Street and South Virginia Avenue late Thursday afternoon.

Gauna, who was riding a bicycle at the time, responded by allegedly getting off his bicycle, pulling three tennis-ball-sized rocks from his pocket and hurling them at the head of the officer.

According to the release, two of the rocks struck the officer in the head, causing a laceration. The third hit him in the left forearm. The officer then backed away and pulled out his service revolver, when Gauna jumped into the patrol unit and sped off.

Gauna drove through the late afternoon traffic at high speeds, often heading into oncoming traffic and avoiding several attempts by officers to use tire deflation devices to immobilize the stolen patrol unit.

The pursuit eventually reached U.S. Highway 285 heading southbound toward Artesia, where the pursuit reached the Eddy County line. Eddy County sheriff’s deputies tried to deploy tire deflation devices to bring the chase to a halt.

Gauna, however, avoided the attempt by driving southbound in northbound lanes at speeds of about 70 miles per hour.

The chase ended at milepost 77 when Gauna allegedly crashed the stolen patrol unit head-on into a pickup that was heading northbound at the time. According to the release, Gauna then emerged from the stolen unit and tried to enter the pickup. Officers then subdued Gauna and took him into custody.

Roswell Police Chief Phil Smith said Friday the unit that had been stolen is “totaled.”

Upon his release from the hospital, Gauna will be held by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and then extradited back to Chaves County, the release states.

According to electronic court records, Gauna has a lengthy criminal history stretching back to at least 2006.

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

 

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