Man killed had been fired

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By Martin Salazar

State police responding to a call of a suicidal man at the Country Acres mobile home park north of Las Vegas Thursday afternoon fatally shot him after he pointed a rifle at officers while aggressively walking toward them, state police Chief Pete Kassetas said during a Thursday night news conference.

Kassetas identified the man killed as Arcenio Lujan, 48. Lujan had been fired from his job at the city earlier in the day.  

“We didn’t want to see it result in this,” Kassetas said. But the chief emphasized that officers tried to negotiate with Lujan for about 30 minutes and even pleaded with him to not hurt himself or anyone else. In the end, he said, officers had no choice but to shoot Lujan because he pointed the rifle at them.

Kassetas said at least two officers fired on Lujan, and both were being placed on standard administrative leave. He said the names of the officers would be released at a later time.

The shooting occurred outside Lujan’s residence on Castle Drive. Family members of Lujan, many of them distraught, stood outside the yellow police tape throughout Thursday evening and into the night as investigators worked the scene.

“My nephew Arcenio did not need to die the way he did,” Sam Lujan told the Optic Sunday morning. “… The problem starts with the guy who runs the police academy and is protected by Gov. (Susana) Martinez’s administration. He has no law enforcement training and they’re a bunch of militia guys and that’s why they’re being trained military style.”

Sam Lujan questioned whether officers at the scene truly tried to negotiate with his nephew before shooting him.
He said the family also has questions about how the city handled his nephew’s firing.

A search warrant affidavit filed Friday afternoon in state District Court in Las Vegas reveals that Lujan was upset over being fired from the city earlier in the day.

Lujan had worked for the city for four months. He was a maintenance worker in the city’s parks department.

At about 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, Lujan’s supervisor, Jeff Rudolph, called him in and questioned him about alleged abuse of prescription medication while on duty. According to the affidavit, filed by state police agent Mark Alsfeld, Lujan initially denied abusing prescription medication while on duty but later admitted to doing so.

Lujan reportedly made a threat and walked out.

Rudolph notified the city’s human resources office, and Lujan was terminated for walking out. Lujan was notified that he had been fired at a meeting later that morning.

On Thursday afternoon, Lujan reportedly called Rudolph and told him to come to his house and get the city keys off his dead body. Rudolph reported the call to a Las Vegas police commander, who contacted the state police dispatch center because Lujan lived outside city limits.

State police were asked to conduct a welfare check on Lujan at about 4:20 p.m.

Two state police officers went to Lujan’s home on Castle Drive to check on him. When they arrived, they heard a gunshot that they believed to have originated from Lujan’s house.

At about the same time a friend of Lujan’s called 911 to report that he had been speaking to Lujan on the telephone and heard a gunshot before the call ended.

“He believed that Arcenio committed suicide and requested that the dispatcher send an ambulance to his residence,” the affidavit states.

The chief said a sergeant and between four and seven officers were at the scene.

“We knew the danger that existed in responding to a suicidal subject who had some history,” Kassetas said.

“As they approached the residence they encountered Mr. Lujan with a rifle,” he said. Kassetas said Lujan exited the residence several times, engaging the officers with the weapon.

“At one point, Mr. Lujan took a seated position on the porch area of the residence,” he said. “The officers again were talking to him, trying to get him to put the weapon down. He opened up a gate. He advanced on the officers. He raised the rifle, leveled it at the officers, and the officers had no other choice but to fire in defense of themselves.”

After the shooting, emergency medical technicians confirmed that Lujan was dead.

Kassetas said investigators with the Criminal Investigations Section were still trying to determine how many shots were fired. He also said he didn’t believe anyone else was in the residence.

City officials, meanwhile, called for a “safety stand down” on Friday to allow its employees to grieve.

“The city of Las Vegas is offering grievance counseling to any employee who feels may need this assistance,” the city said in a news release. “Further, employees that are in non-critical positions will be released for the remainder of the day to allow them time to cope with this situation.”

City officials asked the community to be patient in the event there are minor interruptions in service.

“The city is still maintaining critical services through this event and hopes to be back at full staffing by Tuesday...,” the release states. “We truly appreciate your cooperation in this matter.”

This is the second officer-involved shooting in San Miguel County this year.

On the night of Jan. 4, a state police officer shot wrong-way driver Albert J. Urban of Hamburg, N.Y. after he drove toward officers. Urban, who was suffering a cognitive disorder, survived.

District Attorney Richard Flores cleared the officer of any wrongdoing in that case, saying the shooting was justified.