SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A man accused of killing three family members and two other people in a shooting rampage that spanned nearly 200 miles in New Mexico was captured after a chase and a crash, authorities said Friday.
After Damian Herrera, 21, gunned down his mother, stepfather and brother, police say, he carjacked and killed a driver before chaos erupted hours later at a general store in a tiny town that artist Georgia O’Keeffe called home for most of her life. That’s where the final victim died.
Herrera was arrested Thursday and booked into jail on suspicion of five counts of murder.
The shooting of his family appears to stem from a domestic dispute, police say, but investigators were still piecing together what happened at five different locations with many witnesses.
District Attorney Marco Serna called the shootings horrific and senseless, saying northern New Mexico was rocked to its core. He said his office will request that Herrera be held without bond.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Herrera had an attorney. The suspect had no criminal record, only traffic citations in 2015 and one earlier this year, according to court records.
The three family members killed Thursday were Maria Rosita Gallegos, 49; Max Trujillo Sr., 55; and Brendon Herrera, 20, all from the La Madera area, 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) north of Santa Fe and not far from the Ojo Caliente hot springs, a popular tourist destination.
After the killings, police say Damian Herrera headed north to the community of Tres Piedras, where he is accused of killing Michael Kyte, 61, and stealing the man’s truck.
Herrera drove into Colorado before finding his way back south into New Mexico, circumventing a rural area dotted by just a few close-knit communities and scenic mountain ranges.
Nearly five hours after the first 911 call came in about the family’s slaying, Manuel Serrano, 59, was killed at the general store in Abiquiu, a traditional Hispanic enclave where O’Keeffe lived.
Sheriff’s deputies spotted the stolen pickup and began chasing it.
“Herrera was driving so fast that when he came upon a curve, he was unable to maintain his lane of travel and veered into oncoming traffic,” state police said in a statement.
The pickup overcorrected to avoid an oncoming police vehicle and crashed into a tree.
Herrera got out and ran toward deputies. He tried to grab one of their guns and it fired, authorities said. A second deputy used a stun gun on Herrera, and he was taken into custody.
An officer injured his elbow during the scuffle but there were no other injuries, police said.
Kyle Frettem, who took classes at the University of New Mexico with Herrera and would go hiking with him, said he had not talked to Herrera in about a year but described him as someone who was into inner peace.
“He was the kind of guy who would go out into the mountains and meditate,” Frettem said. “People can change pretty drastically in a year, but someone like this, it’s like no way.”