No matter how you look at it, the death of Arcenio Lujan is a tragedy.
Lujan was shot and killed by two state police officers on May 8 after he reportedly pointed a rifle at them. The officers were there checking in on Lujan because his former supervisor and a friend notified authorities that he appeared to be suicidal.
By most accounts, Lujan was a good man who was battling addiction to prescription drugs. Addiction is an insidious disease that robs people of their hope and leaves a trail of wrecked lives in its wake.
Sadly, prescription drug abuse is up in New Mexico, and while prescription drugs may not have the stigma that heroin and cocaine have, they cause just as much heartbreak and devastation.
On the day that Lujan died, his supervisor at the city of Las Vegas confronted him about his use of prescription drugs while on duty. Lujan was later terminated after he stormed off the job.
His life was spinning out of control, and that culminated with his tragic encounter with state police officers.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, there has been much finger pointing.
Some fault the city for firing Lujan. Others accuse state police of using excessive force, saying the officers shouldn’t have shot and killed Lujan.
Our hearts go out to the Lujan family — to his wife, his two children, parents and all the others who loved him.
But our hearts also go out to the city officials who confronted him and who made the decision to terminate him. And our hearts go out to the state police officers who had to make the split-second decision when confronted with a man pointing a rifle at them.
It’s easy to pass judgment when you’re not the one in the untenable situation.
What if the city hadn’t fired Lujan and if he had gotten into an accident and hurt someone while on prescription medications? What would the criticism have been then?
Or what if Lujan had shot someone while the state police officers hesitated to act?
A man’s life was taken, and for that, there should be a thorough investigation by both state police and the district attorney’s office to determine whether the officers were justified in the actions they took.
But until there’s evidence to the contrary, those officers deserve the benefit of the doubt. And they, like the Lujan family, deserve our compassion.