Police chase south of Santa Fe ends in morning rush-hour pileup on I-25

The Honda Pilot belonging to Patrick Hall. He flipped the vehicle after he was struck during the Wednesday morning rush hour trying to avoid a pileup on Interstate 25 near the Old Pecos Trail exit. Neither Hall nor his two teenage sons were seriously injured. Police were chasing the driver of a stolen pickup, but the driver evaded capture. Courtesy photo

What started out as a New Mexico State Police pursuit of a stolen pickup Wednesday morning resulted in a multicar crash on Interstate 25, southeast of Santa Fe, that caused a Cañoncito man trying to avoid the pileup to flip his Honda Pilot.

Neither Patrick Hall nor his two teenage sons riding in the SUV were seriously injured in the wreck.

But the incident caused a lengthy traffic jam along I-25 between Santa Fe and Eldorado.

Hall said a Santa Fe County sheriff’s deputy at the scene told him officers had tried to use spike strips, devices that punctures tires, to stop the driver of the stolen truck. However, a spokesman for Sheriff Adan Mendoza denied that spike strips — also known as “stop sticks” — were used. A deputy did have the devices at the scene, the spokesman said, but they were never used.

In an interview Wednesday, Hall, who works with the Protective Services Division of the state Children, Youth and Families Department, said he was driving his sons to school from their home in Cañoncito when he suddenly encountered the crash around 7:45 a.m., a time when highway traffic is heavy from people traveling to work and school.

About a quarter-mile from the Old Pecos Trail exit off I-25, he said, drivers in front of him had started to slow down.

“I looked up to see what appeared to be a policeman running into the highway traffic from the dirt median,” Hall said. “At this second, all the traffic in front of us went from 75 mph to locked-up screeching.

“There were six or seven cars piled up in front of us,” he added.

Hall said he started to brake but realized he wouldn’t be able to miss the vehicle in front of him, so he veered toward the road’s shoulder. In his rearview mirror, he saw a gray SUV approaching fast and it struck him from behind.

His Honda went into a 180-degree spin and flipped onto its side.

“My boys, who were on the passenger side, were hanging, suspended by their seat belts,” Hall said. “I asked if they were good, and they said yes. They unhooked themselves and fell on me. I got through the glass and dirt and was able to pull them both from the car.”

Other motorists who had stopped and were on the side of the road helped Hall get his sons out of the car, he said.

“I actually passed out as I got out of the car,” Hall said.

The boys’ mother came to pick them up and give them a ride to school. Hall got a ride in an ambulance to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, where he was treated and released.

When he regained consciousness at the scene, a deputy approached Hall and said officers had been unable to find the SUV that had hit him. A deputy also told him state police had been chasing a stolen vehicle and had used a spike strip, Hall said.

Authorities said they suspect the stolen vehicle was the one that had hit Hall’s SUV and caused the wreck.

However, a state police spokesman said the stolen vehicle, which was found later Wednesday, was neither gray nor an SUV. It was a white Ford dually pickup.

An emergency medical technician who overheard the deputy speaking about the spike strip became angry, saying, “You guys deployed spike strips on an interstate during rush hour traffic with zero traffic control?” according to Hall.

Others at the scene were furious with police, he said. One woman on the side of the road was screaming at officers: “You’re willing to sacrifice our lives to catch one person?”

A spokesman for the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office told The New Mexican a deputy was at the scene to assist state police with the chase. The deputy had spike strips — what spokesman Juan Ríos called “stop sticks” — set up on the side of the road to throw in front of the stolen truck. But, Ríos said, “He never deployed the stop sticks.”

Ríos couldn’t say what caused the multivehicle pileup that Hall had swerved to avoid.

Deputies had not yet completed an incident report as of late Wednesday afternoon, he said.

Lt. Mark Soriano, a state police spokesman, said patrol officers in Santa Fe received an alert from the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office about a pickup stolen in Albuquerque. A state police officer found the truck traveling north on I-25 about four miles north of the Old Pecos Trail exit.

“The officer attempted to stop the vehicle, which the vehicle ignored the officers’ emergency equipment, and a pursuit was initiated,” Soriano said.

“The pursuit was terminated by officers,” he added. “Officers located the vehicle on Stacy Lane [off Old Las Vegas Highway] via a GPS tracking device.”

The driver of the stolen pickup has not been found, he said.

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(6) comments

Chris Mechels

Missing from this coverage is the simple fact that the SF Sheriff's Deputies acted in violation of the NM Safe Pursuit Act, and their own Pursuit policy. Nothing new here, as the Sheriff has a history of such illegal pursuits. It is time, actually well past time, for the County Council to demand answers from the Sheriff and NMSP. Until then, such total mess ups, and cover ups, will continue. Also, it is time for Sheriff Adan Mendoza to initiate reforms, which he spoke of during his campaign. So for, he's just more of the same; the same poorly trained deputies doing dumb, illegal things. Also, we can now look forward to paying the lawsuits brought as a result of this incident. Time for reforms; we have the laws, now the cops need to follow them.

Megs McFarlane

I was a witness to this accident - YES, the sheriff was trying to lay the spike stripe on the freeway. I saw the stripe in his hands. Whether it was used or not doesn't matter. I was told by another sheriff at the scene it was a spike stripe being used to stop a high speed chase that was coming down I25 behind us. When the sheriff with the spike stripe walked back across the freeway lanes, holding out his hands to slow the rush hour traffic, everyone slammed on their brakes to avoid hitting him which caused vehicles to go every which way. I saw Mr. Halls' vehicles swiftly pull to the shoulder and roll in my rear view mirror. He was trying to avoid the pile up caused by the sheriff walking across the car packed lanes. Every car that was involved had children inside the vehicles.

Khal Spencer

Spike strips and high speed cop chases during rush hour? What can possibly go wrong? I guess we found out.

Between the Keystone Kop mentality and the reckless criminals who roam our neighborhoods, I increasingly think the best thing to do is find another state to live in. That's for two reasons. One, we do not want to put the resources into elite cop training and leadership (i.e., training and salaries) to ensure the best decision making in a crisis by law enforcement. Two, our revolving door justice system will continue to plague us with a rainstorm of violent men who will constantly prey on us. Seems we just finished reading about the lunatic who killed a man by driving recklessly on West Alameda and now this.

If you are gonna live here, good luck.

Chris Mechels

We have the laws, and policies, on the books, the cops just don't follow them. Needed, at both the county and state level is OVERSIGHT of the cops, and we have none. The question is NOT resolved by moving out of state; but by our government holding the police accountable to the law and their policies.

Khal Spencer

Chris, when I said leadership, I meant in part oversight. But leadership means teaching subordinates to do the right thing and is closer to the action than an oversight board or consent decree. Prior to initiating a chase, it seems the officers on the scene should be asking "is it safe enough to do this compared to the risks to society imposed by who we are chasing?" and in the case of someone in a stolen vehicle, I wonder if lacking another reason to do a hot pursuit, its better to simply radio ahead to watch for the bum. If on the other hand they were chasing someone who was actively endangering the public (i.e., an active shooter or reckless drunk, etc), its worth the chase. I'm not a cop and never walked in a cop's shoes, so will leave it there.

Anya Marie

You are so right!

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