Suspect in fatal New Mexico State Police officer shooting captured: Officials

"I was scared," said the gas station clerk who called 911 on the suspect.

March 18, 2024, 10:55 AM

The suspect wanted in the killings of a New Mexico state trooper and a South Carolina paramedic was captured Sunday after an eagle-eyed gas station clerk called 911, authorities said.

The suspect, Jaremy Smith, was taken into custody in Bernalillo County, New Mexico, after leading police on a foot chase that resulted in him being shot and wounded by at least one deputy from the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office, according to the New Mexico State Police.

Smith is suspected in the fatal shooting of New Mexico State police officer Justin Hare early Friday and the slaying of Phonesia Machado-Fore, a South Carolina paramedic who was reported missing on Thursday, authorities said.

The 33-year-old suspect, who was identified on Saturday by police, was the subject of a massive manhunt. Smith's arrest came less than 24 hours after New Mexico State Police Chief Troy Weisler said, "Jaremy Smith, we are coming for you."

"Yesterday, we said we would bring Jaremy Smith to justice. There was nowhere that he could run, and there was nowhere he could hide," Weisler said during a news conference. "Today, thanks to our community, to our fellow law enforcement partners, we were able to do that."

PHOTO: New Mexico State Police released this photo of a suspect sought in the fatal shooting of an officer.
New Mexico State Police released this photo of a suspect sought in the fatal shooting of an officer.
New Mexico State Police

Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen said a clerk at a Murphy Express gas station in Albuquerque recognized a customer matching Smith's description around 7 a.m. local time Sunday and called police. When officers arrived at the scene, they spotted Smith walking on a road in a residential neighborhood and immediately started to establish a perimeter, Allen added.

"A foot pursuit ensued, shots were fired. Some shots struck Smith. We don't know the amount right now or how many. That's still under investigation," he said.

Allen said Smith was taken to a local hospital, where he was under guard and being treated.

PHOTO: New Mexico State Police Officer Justin Hare is seen in this photo.
New Mexico State Police Officer Justin Hare is seen in this photo.
New Mexico State Police

"When a law enforcement officer is killed anywhere in the state of New Mexico, we stand as a unified front," Allen said, praising the work of federal, state and local law enforcement "who worked as a team to make sure we took someone that was very dangerous to the public, all of our communities, into custody."

No deputies were injured in the incident, officials said.

Murphy Express gas station clerk Samentha Reynolds told ABC News that she called 911 after carding Smith when he bought a pack of cigarettes and used his real ID.

Reynolds said she recognized Smith immediately from his wanted posters and confirmed her suspicions by the unusual spelling of Jaremy on his driver's license.

"I was nervous. I was scared. I didn't know if he was armed. Actually, when I carded him, I was like, 'Is he going to shoot me,'" Reynolds said. "But I wanted to do what was right for the family [of Officer Hare], for my community and to back the blue."

Hare was gunned down around 5 a.m. Friday after answering a call to help a disabled motorist on Interstate 40 near Tucumcari, about 235 miles east of Albuquerque near the Texas border, officials said.

When Hare pulled up behind the disabled BMW, the suspect exited the vehicle and approached the officer's passenger side window, Weisler said.

"A short conversation ensued about repairing his tire and possibly getting a ride back to town when, without warning, the suspect pulled out a firearm and shot Officer Hare," Weisler said during Saturday's news conference.

PHOTO: In this previous booking photo released by the New Mexico State Police, Jaremy Smith is shown.
In this previous booking photo released by the New Mexico State Police, Jaremy Smith is shown.
New Mexico State Police

The suspect then walked to the driver's side of the patrol car and allegedly shot Hare again, Weisler said. He alleged that Smith pushed Hare into the passenger seat and drove off in the patrol car with the mortally wounded officer.

When Hare did not return several attempts to contact him, an officer was sent to the scene and saw Hare's patrol car driving at a high speed on a frontage road along the Interstate 40 road, Weisler said. Hare managed to set off a distress signal, sending an emergency signal to dispatch, police said.

Police eventually located the patrol car, crashed and empty, Weisler said. Hare was later found critically injured by the side of a road and taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

During the investigation, police learned the car Smith was driving at the time of the encounter with Hare was registered to Machado-Fore, a paramedic for Florence County, South Carolina, Emergency Medical Services, authorities said.

Machado-Fore was found dead outside of Lake View in Dillon County, South Carolina, on Friday after she had been reported missing by her family, according to the Marion County Sheriff's Office. An autopsy has been scheduled for Monday.

Smith has an "extensive" criminal history dating back decades in South Carolina and has ties to the Albuquerque area, Weisler said.

Before Smith's arrest, warrants were issued charging him with Hare's murder.

Weisler said the investigation is continuing and police are searching for anyone who assisted Smith in getting to Albuquerque.

"We will be tirelessly searching for any ledes and any individuals that we discover were involved with that," Weisler said.

Hare's girlfriend, Daizzare, the mother of his two daughters who is pregnant with their third child, released a statement Sunday describing Hare as "an amazing son, father, spouse and Police Officer."

"The role he played in the lives of his family and those close to him will never be forgotten," she wrote. "The fact that he put his heart into every single thing that he did was the epitome of who Justin was. It's so hard to put his life and who he was into paragraphs because he was indescribable."

She added, "Justin loved me and our family. He always went above and beyond to ensure we had everything we needed. Not just financially or materialistic, but he was constantly present. He always let the girls and I know that we were his priority."

ABC News' Clarissa Gonzalez contributed to this report.