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ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Al Solis, Roswell’s former police chief and the state’s former interim secretary of the Department of Corrections, died Monday, Roswell officials confirmed. He was 65 and had been battling cancer.
Roswell City Manager Larry Fry said officials were informed that Solis died in Las Cruces. “He was certainly a man of integrity and had a long, distinguished career in law enforcement,” Fry said.
His death comes just a few months after Solis announced in July he was stepping down for health reasons. He said at the time that his cancer was contained but not going away.
The longtime lawman came to Roswell as administrator to the Chaves County Detention Center and later became the department’s chief.
He spent 21 years with the U.S. Marshals Service and served briefly as interim secretary of the Department of Corrections under Gov. Susana Martinez.
In 2011 interview with The Associated Press, Solis said he was happy to help Martinez reshape the corrections department and get it ready for incoming Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel. “But police work is what I enjoy doing,” he said. “I really enjoy working to make communities safer.”
As Roswell’s police chief, Solis invited Homeland Security Investigations to the small southeastern New Mexico city to help the department fight the city’s violent gang problem.
State data shows that Roswell and Chaves County have the state’s highest “firearm injury emergency department visit rate,” largely due to gang violence. The county’s rate was 44.8 per 100,000 residents from 2008 to 2010, the latest data showed, compared with the state average of 18.
Roswell said his small department couldn’t handle the violence alone and was happy federal agents were lending their support and helping convict suspects under various stronger federal laws.
Funeral services have not been announced.