A two-hour SWAT operation prompted by gunshots in the Acequia Madre neighborhood downtown came to an end when Santa Fe police took a male suspect into custody late Tuesday afternoon.
The man, identified by police as Jason Elliott, 49, was arrested in Patrick Smith Park after fleeing a standoff at a home on Acequia Madre, not far from the intersection with Camino del Monte Sol.
Elliott had left the scene in a vehicle, and officers pursued him to the park, Deputy Chief Paul Joye said.
Police charged Elliott with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of negligent use of a weapon and two counts of aggravated assault on a peace officer after officers reported he fired a shotgun near them while they were outside investigating the scene, Joye said.
“Nobody got hurt on any side of it, and I’m always happy about that,” Joye said of the tense standoff.
A search of online court records does not reveal any previous criminal charges against Elliott.
The incident started shortly after 3 p.m. as police responded to a report of a gunshot in the vicinity. According to a news release issued by the Santa Fe Police Department, the shooting took place “after a verbal altercation in a parking lot,” though the release does not say where.
Joye said the investigation is ongoing.
Jesse Kesler, who was working on a construction project at a nearby home, said he first saw a man near the house in question “screaming and acting very agitated” around that time.
He described the man as a white male. He said it was unclear why the man was screaming or with whom he was arguing.
Kesler and others in the area said they heard a single gunshot shortly thereafter. Kesler said it sounded like a shotgun.
“Then the police came,” he said.
Others who live in or were visiting the area described a string of police cars suddenly zooming around the streets, blocking off traffic lanes on Canyon Road, Camino del Monte Sol and Acequia Madre.
Several officers wore protective body gear and carried automatic rifles as they set up road barriers in the area.
Officers on the scene were urging people in the neighborhood to stay behind walls or take other cover in case “bullets start flying.”
Kesler said he heard at least one more gunshot during the standoff, but added he could not see anything because police asked him and his crew to take shelter in a nearby art gallery.
“They said, ‘Everyone get inside,’ ” he recalled.
At one point, police could be heard using a loudspeaker to talk to Elliott as they surrounded the house in the normally quiet neighborhood known for its art galleries and restaurants.
Shortly thereafter, police officers “used a flash-sounding diversionary device, which is not uncommon for this type of situation,” Joye said.
Elliott “was seen fleeing the scene in his vehicle,” and police caught up to him during a “high-risk traffic stop,” according to the news release.
The heavy police presence and sound of gunshots had people scurrying for cover at one point. Two owners of a nearby business, who declined to be identified, said a number of passersby suddenly came in to “seek shelter” during the threat.
Kathy Kennedy Beck of Tucson, Ariz., who was visiting Santa Fe, said she heard a single gunshot shortly after 3 p.m. in the direction of Camino del Monte Sol. Asked if she could determine whether it was a large- or small-caliber weapon, she said, “When you hear something like that, you don’t think anything except, ‘It was a loud shot.’ ”
Katie Hyde of Santa Fe, who had just visited the nearby Tea House restaurant with a friend, said she was surprised to suddenly walk upon a crime scene.
“Tons of police cars were passing by; I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” she said.
Yet at times the standoff quieted down so much that local residents who were just a block or so away, seemingly unaware of the situation, strolled the streets, put out garbage cans or stopped to chat with mail delivery drivers who came close to the cordoned-off areas before being turned away by police.
But the potential for danger remained. Acequia Madre resident Jane Smith wandered out of her house at one point to see if she could find out the truth about rumors she was hearing.
“It’s scary to think of a live shooter around here,” she said.
A police officer standing nearby told her it would “not be an intelligent decision” to go too far into the street, so she went back inside her home.