Authorities continue search for shooter

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By Bennett Horne

Authorities continued to search Thursday for an apparent shooter who, while reportedly driving a white Jeep Wrangler with a blue Marine Corps license plate, pulled up next to another driver and fired shots at him on NM 502.

The incident happened Feb. 1, at about 6 p.m. on near Pojoaque. The victim was a Los Alamos National Laboratory employee who was headed home from work to  Santa Fe.

Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Juan Rios said his department has received some calls regarding the incident, but none of them provided any information of substance.

The victim was taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital where a CT scan determined he had a bullet lodged between his scalp and skull. He underwent surgery later that night.

The apparent case of road rage has spurred conversation about what drivers should do if they find themselves in an aggressive encounter while behind the wheel.

That stretch of highway has a reputation of being tough to navigate, especially at the end of the workday when it’s filled with vehicles leaving Los Alamos.

Even though the area is patrolled by various law enforcement entities, the amount of traffic adds to the hazardous conditions.

“We typically have deputies assigned to that part of the county,” said Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Juan Rios. “There are also state police officers patrolling that area as well as tribal law officers. So the area is patrolled. But that stretch has multiple veins of traffic going through there.”

Authorities say the best way for victims of road rage to handle the situation is to back off, pull over and call 911.

“We encourage anyone who might be on the receiving end of any kind of incident not to try to retaliate or do anything to further antagonize the situation,” said Los Alamos Police Commander Preston Ballew. “Of course 502 is a pretty desolate stretch and there aren’t a lot of places to pull over, but it’s best to pull over and call 911.”

According to the report filed by investigating Santa Fe County Sheriff Deputy John Maylone, the victim in last week’s incident handled the situation in the same manner advised by authorities.

The report indicated the victim “was trying to ignore the situation and did not engage the individual” while continuing on NM 502.

This came after the driver of the Jeep pulled over and let the victim pass at the intersection of NM 502 and State Road 30. The Jeep then pulled up behind the victim and started to pass him before slowing alongside the victim’s vehicle.
The victim said the driver of the Jeep started yelling and making hand gestures at him.

The victim said he then heard apparent gunshots before the Jeep sped away.

Ballew said if a victim of road rage can get the offender’s license plate it would be helpful, but it should not be done at the risk of further aggravating the situation.

“We certainly don’t want the situation to escalate by trying to get behind the other person to try to get a license plate or anything like that,” he said. “Just look at the vehicle and try to get a description, pull over and call 911. Anything else might further escalate the situation and we don’t want that to happen.”

Rios continues to ask for anyone with more information on the driver of the Jeep to call the sheriff’s office at 505-428-3720.