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New Mexico State Police officer fatally shot ‘in cold blood’ by driver he tried to help, police say

A New Mexico State Police officer was fatally shot “in cold blood” early Friday when he offered to help the driver of a disabled vehicle, who shot the officer twice and drove off in his patrol car with the officer still inside, authorities said.

The disabled vehicle turned out to be a white BMW that belonged to a first responder in South Carolina who was found dead Friday evening, authorities said.

An arrest warrant has been issued for 33-year-old Jaremy Smith of Marion, South Carolina, the “armed and dangerous” man wanted in the apparent ambush attack on Interstate 40 that killed Officer Justin Hare, New Mexico State Police said.

“Jaremy Smith, we are coming for you,” Chief Troy Weisler said. “I implore you to turn yourself in and surrender peacefully.”

Officer shot on a “cold, dark, and windy morning”

Around 5 a.m. local time in New Mexico, Hare was sent to help a driver who had a flat tire and was trying to wave down others on the interstate near Tucumcari in eastern New Mexico, Weisler said Friday in a video message.

When Hare arrived, he parked behind Smith’s disabled vehicle. Smith approached Hare’s passenger side window, Weisler said.

“A short conversation ensued about repairing his tire, and Officer Hare offered to give the suspect a ride to town,” Weisler said.

Then, without warning, Smith pulled out a firearm and shot Hare, and walked to the driver’s side and shot the officer again, before pushing Hare into the passenger seat and driving away in the patrol vehicle, Weisler said. The car was abandoned a short time later, Weisler said.

Another state police officer had been sent to help Hare, and while he was responding to the area, Hare’s emergency beacon began to go off, Weisler said.

As the assisting officer continued to the scene, he spotted Hare’s patrol unit driving fast. When the officer caught up to the patrol unit, it had crashed off the side of the road. The assisting officer approached and found it empty, according to the chief.

Smith had fled on foot and there was no sign of Hare. The officer was later found on the frontage road of Interstate 40 and taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he died, according to Weisler.

A manhunt for Smith was launched near where the patrol car was abandoned. State Police tracked Smith’s trail “for quite some time,” Weisler said, but lost it.

Jaremy Smith is wanted in the killing of Officer Justin Hare, according to New Mexico State Police. - New Mexico State Police
Jaremy Smith is wanted in the killing of Officer Justin Hare, according to New Mexico State Police. - New Mexico State Police

Smith is facing charges of first-degree murder, armed robbery, shooting at or from a motor vehicle, armed robbery, tampering with evidence, felon in possession of a firearm, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and criminal damage to property, police said.

Hare, who graduated from police recruit school in 2018, is survived by his parents, his girlfriend and two young children, Weisler said.

“On a cold, dark and windy morning, he offered help to a person he thought was in need,” Weisler said Saturday at a news conference, choking up with emotion. “That person killed him in cold blood. The last words Officer Hare uttered on this earth was to offer help to a man who was about to kill him.”

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham offered her “heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and fellow officers at this most difficult time” on X.

Suspect linked to another killing

Hundreds of miles away, the body of a missing South Carolina paramedic has been recovered, and authorities there said her car was connected to Smith.

The family of 52-year-old Phonesia Machado-Fore reported her missing to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday evening.

Federal, state, and local authorities worked to find her, and investigators were led to a property in Dillon County, close to the North Carolina border, where they found her body. An autopsy has been scheduled for Monday, according to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.

“Mrs. Fore was one of us, a fellow first responder. Her death is senseless. Our community has suffered a tremendous loss. My team and I will not stop until we bring the person or persons responsible for her death to justice,” Marion County Sheriff Brian Wallace said, adding that the case is “far from over.”

Weisler said his department and South Carolina officials are working together to see what relationship there might be between the two cases.

“There is nowhere he can run,” Weisler said about Smith. “There’s nowhere he can hide where we will not find him.”

Weisler asked anyone who might have had contact with Smith to call police. “Going forward though, if anyone knowingly assists him, they should expect to pay the price as well and be prosecuted with every charge possible,” he said.

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