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BWC: Suspect grabs N.M. officer’s rifle, fires shots before fatal OIS

When Albuquerque Police Department officers tried to bring a robbery suspect into custody, he grabbed an officer’s rifle, released the safety and fired shots to the ground

By Matthew Reisen
Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Police waited outside the store entrance for Mark Benavidez, having already cuffed his girlfriend — an armed robbery suspect — in the Walmart parking lot.

“What’s up Mark? Stop right there,” the detective says when he spots Benavidez, according to lapel video. But the 30-year-old doesn’t stop, and soon he and the detective are on the ground.

Lapel video shows Benavidez grab the detective’s rifle, take it off safety and fire it repeatedly as police swarm him — one officer holding the barrel to the ground and another trying to use a Taser on him.

Clouds of debris fly as the rifle fires into the pavement.

Then, two detectives shoot Benavidez multiple times at close range, killing him. As the dust settles, the detective says repeatedly “check me, check me” — believing he may have been shot.

The chaotic incident unfolded on April 11 outside the Walmart on Wyoming, north of Indian School.

Albuquerque Police Department Cmdr. Kyle Hartsock, who oversees APD’s Criminal Investigations Bureau, said the two detectives who shot Benavidez work undercover in APD’s Gang Unit. For that reason, he said, their names and photographs would not be released, as has become common practice. Hartsock said the detectives joined APD in 2015 and 2013, and neither has been in a prior shooting.

He said both detectives are back on duty.

Benavidez’s girlfriend, Adriana Gonzales, has been charged in three armed robberies and— after Benavidez’s death — told police he had been the getaway driver. Hartsock said officers found a loaded gun on Benavidez’s body, and the gun’s owner told officers the couple stole it from him the night before.

An online obituary said Benavidez grew up in Socorro and, as a child, loved to attend drag races with his father and brothers. He was called “Chuckz” by close friends due to an affinity for Chuck Taylor shoes.

“His bright smile and loving heart made him loved by everyone in our family,” according to the obituary. "... Mark was one of the lucky few who was good at almost everything he did, so he had a variety of interests.”

Hartsock said APD had been looking for Gonzales since April 10 after she had been identified in three armed robberies. He said police tracked Gonzales to Walmart and saw Benavidez go inside while she stayed in the car.

Lapel video showed officers detaining Gonzales in the parking lot and she asks, “How did you guys find me?” The detectives reply, “This is what we do.”

“Are you guys going to ... is Mark in trouble?” Gonzales asks the detective. He doesn’t answer her as he walks her to another area.

Then, a gunshot rings out in the distance, followed by a pause and a barrage of gunfire. Lapel video shows Gonzales frantically yelling Benavidez’s name and trying to pull away from the detective before breaking down into tears.

Across the parking lot, Benavidez had been shot several times and was pronounced dead soon after.

Hartsock said the two detectives fired a total of five shots and Benavidez fired seven shots from the detective’s rifle. He said they found a .40-caliber handgun tucked into his right pant leg.

Hartsock said a man reported the gun stolen hours after the shooting. He said the man told police Benavidez and Gonzales had come to his home the night before and then his gun was missing.

Hartsock said Gonzales also told police the couple had stolen the gun. He added, “I think he just invited the wrong people over to his house, and they stole his gun.”

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