Home Safety Retired firefighter and officer die in head-on collision after woman faked kidnapping

Retired firefighter and officer die in head-on collision after woman faked kidnapping

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Elise Kaplan

Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

A 62-year-old retired firefighter driving northbound on Interstate 25 near Santa Fe last week managed to avoid being struck by a fleeing suspect, only to get into a head-on crash with the pursuing officer.

Both the retired firefighter, Frank Lovato, and the officer, Robert Duran, were killed.

No one else was seriously injured.

The collision caused a second crash between another uninvolved driver and a Santa Fe Police Department officer.

The suspect they were chasing, identified as 46-year-old Jeannine Jaramillo, then crashed into a white pickup a short distance away before coming to a stop, according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed in Santa Fe Magistrate Court.

News of the fatal crash and Jaramillo’s arrest on murder charges reverberated around northern New Mexico last week, but this was the first time details of the collision were released.

Jaramillo, meanwhile, racked up a new charge after she tried to smuggle what appeared to be methamphetamine into jail, police say.

Frank Lovato and Robert Duran

She had initially been considered the victim — it had been reported that a man kidnapped her at knifepoint and stole her car. After the crash, Jaramillo was taken to the hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening,and then released.

Then, on Saturday, New Mexico State Police announced they believe she had made up the kidnapping story and there was never a male suspect involved. According to the affidavit, investigators tested DNA evidence on the driver’s side air bag and data from the car’s passenger seat sensor, and determined Jaramillo was the driver of the Chevy Malibu and “was likely alone when she fled, in a stolen vehicle, and caused the fatal accident on I-25.”

The Malibu had been stolen two days earlier from Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Jaramillo has been charged with two counts of felony murder or vehicular homicide, receiving or transferring a stolen motor vehicle, tampering with evidence and aggravated fleeing from law enforcement. Jaramillo was arrested in Albuquerque and brought to the Santa Fe County detention center.

While she was being booked, corrections officers ran her through a scanner and spotted a “small object” near her “private area,” according to a criminal complaint filed in Santa Fe Magistrate Court.

The corrections officer said that, when she strip-searched Jaramillo, she found an unopened syringe and a “small bag that contained a small amount of white substance.” State Police determined the substance was consistent with methamphetamine and it was sent to the lab to be tested.

Jaramillo was charged with possession of a controlled substance. Her attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

‘Safety of others’

Santa Fe Police Department pursuit policies do not say anything about driving against traffic.

But they do say a law enforcement officer “shall not initiate or continue a high speed pursuit when the immediate danger to the officer and the public created by the high speed pursuit exceeds the immediate danger to the public if the occupants of the motor vehicle being pursued remain at large.”

The policies say that state law allows an emergency vehicle to deviate from the traffic code, but “it does not relieve the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle from the duty to drive with the due regard for the safety of others.”

In response to questions, an SFPD spokesman said an administrative investigation into the incident will be conducted after State Police completes its investigation. He said the primary officer on the pursuit, Julian Norris, remains on administrative leave.

“All motor vehicle pursuits are reviewed by a committee to evaluate adherence to Department policy,” said Deputy Chief Ben Valdez. “Factors that shall be taken into consideration are provided in the Department Directive, which is consistent with the NM Safe Pursuit Act.”

Dennis Kenney, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, was previously research director at the Police Executive Research Forum and is frequently called as an expert witness.

He said that, over the years, he has examined policies from many different agencies and they generally outright prohibit pursuing a suspect on the wrong side of the road.

“The fundamental calculation in a pursuit is one of need for immediate apprehension — which, in this case, would be pretty high — versus the risk to others — which is also in this case pretty high, in fact very high,” Kenney said. “I would say at some point the officers need to make the determination that exposing others to greater risk is not called for.”

He said that, in such cases, officers could pursue a suspect on the other side of the road — going with traffic — or call in for backup to block traffic or provide air support.

Valdez said SFPD does not have its own helicopter, but relies on mutual aid from other law enforcement agencies that do.

Car went 90 mph against traffic

The chain of events leading to the crash started after 11 a.m. on Wednesday when a white Chevy Malibu drove into the Vizcaya apartments on Sawmill near St. Francis in Santa Fe.

According to the affidavit, the female driver of the car asked a pedestrian in the parking lot to call 911 because “the male in her passenger seat was armed with a knife and would not get out of her vehicle.”

The pedestrian called for help and multiple officers were dispatched.

The officers attempted to pull over the Chevy Malibu, but it failed to stop and drove around a residential area before getting onto I-25, heading northbound in the southbound lanes. According to the affidavit, the car was traveling at 90 miles per hour against traffic.

Then, at an emergency turn-around area in the median, the car pulled a U-turn and began heading the opposite way — once again going against traffic, this time southbound in the northbound lanes. The officers continued to follow behind it.

That’s when Lovato, driving a pickup, encountered the pursuit between the Old Pecos Trail exit and the Eldorado exit. According to the affidavit, he was in the left lane and avoided crashing into the suspect vehicle, but then was hit by Duran’s car.

Duran, 43, was acting as the secondary pursuit vehicle, while Norris was the primary.

A short distance away, a white pickup was not able to avoid the suspect vehicle and the two collided. The suspect vehicle was disabled and Norris said he saw a woman climb out through the driver’s window.

Norris put the woman, Jaramillo, in the back of his patrol vehicle and she said a man by the name of “Mark Lopez” was driving and fled on foot. She said he was armed with a gun, wearing a red shirt and black pants.

Law enforcement launched an extensive manhunt, and several nearby businesses, neighborhoods and a school were put on lockdown.

Jaramillo told officers she and Lopez had been dating for a couple of months, and he had punched her in the head and chest, and knocked her out. She said that, when she regained consciousness, he was pouring gas on her and she was afraid he would light her on fire. Jaramillo said Lopez forced her into her car and made her drive, and that’s when she alerted the pedestrian.

However, officers did not smell gasoline and she did not appear to have been punched, according to the affidavit. Jaramillo has a history of similar behavior — fleeing from officers and claiming a man kidnapped her.

Meanwhile, a BOLO (be on the lookout bulletin) that was meant only for law enforcement was released on social media containing a Mark Lopez’s personal information. That Mark Lopez was interviewed and cleared as a suspect.

When investigators reviewed Norris’ lapel camera video footage, they saw that, after Jaramillo was transferred to another patrol vehicle, he found a set of keys had been left in his back seat. Those keys were to the Chevy Malibu.

Memorial set

A public memorial service for Santa Fe Police Department officer Robert Duran, who lived in Rio Rancho, is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at the Rio Rancho Events Center.

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(c)2022 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)

Visit the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.) at www.abqjournal.com

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