Manhunt underway for suspect following fatal shooting of New Mexico state police officer on highway

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Manhunt underway for suspect following fatal shooting of New Mexico state police officer on highway

A manhunt continues after a New Mexico State police officer was fatally shot on a highway near the small city of Tucumcari Friday by an “armed and dangerous” suspect. 

Officer Justin Hare, 35, responded to a call about the driver of a white BMW with a flat tire who had been waving for help from other drivers on Interstate 40 near milepost 318 at around 5 a.m. when he was shot without warning, New Mexico State Police Chief Troy Weisler said.

The suspect, identified as 32-year-old Jaremy Smith of Marion, South, Carolina, approached the passenger side window of Hare’s patrol vehicle, Weisler said in a video released late Friday.

“A short conversation ensued about repairing his tire, and Officer Hare offered to give the suspect a ride to town. Then without warning, the suspect pulled out a firearm and shot Officer Hare,” Weisler said.

The gunman then walked to the driver’s side of the vehicle and shot Hare again, before pushing him into the passenger seat and driving off in the patrol vehicle, which was later found abandoned, Weisler said.

When calls from dispatch to Hare went unanswered, another state police officer was sent to find out what happened, Weisler said in a news conference Saturday. That’s when Hare’s duress signal started to go off. The duress signal is triggered by pressing a button in a patrol vehicle or on an officer’s handheld radio.

The officer saw Hare’s vehicle being driven at a high speed alongside Interstate 40 and attempted to catch up to it. When the officer found the car, it had been crashed off the side of the road and was empty.

Smith had fled on foot, Weisler said. Hare was later found on Interstate 40 near milepost 312 and transported to a nearby hospital where he died.

New Mexico State Police issued an arrest warrant for Smith, of Marion, South Carolina, on charges of first-degree murder, armed robbery, shooting at or from a vehicle, tampering with evidence, felon in possession of a firearm, unlawful taking of a vehicle, and criminal damage to property.

No arrests have been announced.

Authorities shared photos of the suspect, last seen on foot on the I-40 Frontage Road at milepost 304 between Montoya and Newkirk, and warned people not to approach him but to call 911 immediately.

He was last seen wearing a brown hoodie and jacket, state police said. 

Smith has spent time in Albuquerque and has a “very extensive criminal history” mostly in South Carolina, per Weisler, which includes taking hostages, burglary and armed robbery.

The BMW Smith was driving belonged to a missing South Carolina woman, Phenesia Machado-Fore, who was found dead Friday, Weisler said. The woman was a paramedic in Marion County. Smith is a person of interest in Machado-Fore’s murder, according to police.

“Officer Hare died serving his state and his community,” Weisler said tearfully. “On a cold, dark and windy morning, he offered help to a person he thought was in need. That person killed him in cold blood.”

As Hare’s body was taken to the University of New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator for examination, officers from across the region lined roadways along the route in a show of respect, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office said.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the news left her heartbroken, and offered her condolences to his family and friends.

Lt. Gov. Howie Morales said on X, “I am shocked and deeply saddened by the terrible loss.”

Anyone with information or background on the suspect was asked to call state police. 

“Jeramy Smith, we are coming for you,” Weisler, the state police chief, said. “I implore you to turn yourself in and surrender peacefully. There’s been enough death and despair.”

Hare grew up in Logan and Moriarty in New Mexico, Weisler said, and graduated from the state police recruit school in 2018.

He is survived by his parents, a girlfriend, and two young children.

Hare is the third officer New Mexico State Police has lost to violent crime in almost nine months, Weisler said.

Tucumcari is about 115 miles west of Amarillo, Texas.

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