Las Cruces police officer charged with second-degree murder
LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The Las Cruces police officer accused of shooting and killing 45-year-old Teresa Gomez in October of last year while she was driving away from him has been charged with second-degree murder with a firearm enhancement.
Doña Ana County District Attorney Gerald Byers formally made the announcement Tuesday and confirmed that Felipe Hernandez turned himself in without incident at approximately 11 a.m.
“This case has secured a lot of attention statewide and nationwide. And it has garnered a lot of outrage,” Byers said while speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon.
Officials say Hernandez encountered Gomez and a friend at approximately 4 a.m. on the morning of Oct. 3, 2023.
Police body-cam video from the incident appears to show the officer questioning Gomez near her vehicle. He could be heard stating that he believed Gomez was trespassing, which she refuted multiple times.
The exchange became heated at times with Hernandez using profanity, threatening to tow the vehicle, and saying Gomez needs to cooperate or he will “really, really make [her] life a living hell.”
“His ability to manage protocol was non-existent,” concluded Byers. “His interaction with her, just on a human level, was exceptionally subpar.”
The body-cam video released to KOB shows about eight minutes of interaction before Gomez gets back in her vehicle, backs up, and then proceeds to drive away. It’s at this moment when the video shows Hernandez discharging his weapon.
“There was no necessary necessity for him to use deadly force against Miss Gomez,” said Byers, speaking about the review process that eventually led to the second-degree murder charge. “We looked at self-defense. There was no self-defense. Felipe Hernandez was not met with deadly force.”
Byers noted that Gomez could be seen backing up her vehicle toward the officer, but he noted that Hernandez was not in the “zone of danger” when he apparently fired his weapon.
“Teresa Gomez was not a fleeing felon because she did not present a danger to Officer Hernandez or anyone else,” he said.
Hernandez is not the first LCPD officer to face charges in recent years.
Another officer, Brad Lunsford, was charged with voluntary manslaughter in October of 2023 for his alleged role in the shooting death of Presley Eze in 2022. State officials believe Eze left a store without paying for a beer and became involved in a “scuffle” in which he reached for the taser of one of the officers on scene before Lunsford allegedly shot him in the head.
Additionally, former LCPD Officer Christopher Smelser faced charges after he was accused of killing Antonio Valenzuela in 2020 using a chokehold after Valenzuela reportedly fled the scene during a traffic stop. Another officer testified he believed the suspect had a gun. No gun was ever found, but Smelser was eventually cleared of all charges in July of 2022.
Meanwhile, no criminal charges were ever pressed against Officer Jerad Cosper, who was accused of shooting and killing a 75-year-old woman named Amelia Baca during an encounter at a home. Baca was seen on body-cam video holding two kitchen knives.
The Doña Ana County District Attorney and New Mexico Attorney General declined to pursue a criminal case after experts informed them that they believed this was a case of self-defense.
However, the City of Las Cruces did end up settling with Baca’s family in a civil case, paying them almost $3 million.