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Manhunt ends with suspect’s death

Following an intensive manhunt that lasted several days and a four-hour standoff Sunday morning in Dulce, N.M., a man suspected of shooting at Jicarilla Apache Nation police officers ended his own life with a gunshot.

The hunt for Rex Michael Sherwood, 48, began Tuesday, July 10, after an officer from the Jicarilla Apache Nation police department initiated a traffic stop at approximately 2:45 p.m. in Dulce.

When the officer approached the vehicle, he encountered Sherwood, who failed to comply with the officer’s request. Ignoring the officer, Sherwood drove off, headed east on N.M. 64, leaving the boundary of the reservation and stopping in Monero, according to a Jicarilla Apache Nation press release.

New Mexico State Police officers were immediately notified of the situation and Jicarilla police officers continued to follow the subject off the reservation to monitor and assist the NMSP.

The NMSP and Jicarilla officers, “made every attempt to stop the subject, who then stopped his vehicle, positioned the vehicle in a suspicious manner and started firing at the officers with an automatic weapon. Approximately 70 rounds were fired at the officers, gunfire was returned from officers and thankfully, no one was hit, including the suspect,” the release states.

Sherwood then fled on foot. The NMSP set up a perimeter and initiated a search for the man.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was called in after a search of the vehicle revealed explosives and other contraband.

On Friday, the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office received a report that the subject may have been walking or hitchhiking north into Colorado from the New Mexico state line, said Undersheriff Jim Saunders.

An emergency notification (reverse 911) was sent out to residents living along the U.S. 84 corridor and the portion of southern Archuleta County near U.S. 84, noting that a fugitive was at large and asking residents to be on the lookout, Saunders said.

A checkpoint was also set up near the intersection of U.S. 160 and U.S. 84 to allow law enforcement personnel to inspect vehicles and show drivers a photo of the subject to determine if anyone had seen him, Saunders said.

Members of the Colorado State Patrol, Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office, Pagosa Springs Police Department and the District Attorney’s Pagosa Springs investigator were involved in Friday’s activities, Saunders said. The undersheriff added that it is unknown if Sherwood left New Mexico during the manhunt.

On Sunday morning at approximately 7 a.m., Sherwood was spotted in Dulce carrying a rifle and backpack, the Jicarilla Apache press release states.

After being spotted, the subject fled and broke into the 64 Express gas station in Dulce, where he, “hunkered down and after a few minutes began shooting at police. A perimeter had been set up to secure the area by the Jicarilla Police Department and the Jicarilla Game and Fish Department with State Police arriving minutes after the shooting began,” the release states.

Rapid gunshots were heard and bullets were seen hitting police vehicles. The firing continued for up to three hours.

“Police did try negotiating with the subject but the subject only responded by firing his weapon,” states the report.

After four hours of the standoff and a few minutes with no shooting, the subject was determined to no longer be moving around inside the convenience store, and officers discovered Sherwood dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound from his AK-47. Law enforcement officials determined at the scene that Sherwood died instantly from the gunshot.

Saunders reported that he had talked with a lieutenant and incident commander in Dulce about the possibility of sending officers to help with the standoff. Archuleta County law enforcement personnel were preparing to travel to Dulce to help with the incident when a call was received informing them the situation had ended.

Archuleta County officials then put out an emergency notification telling residents who were the subject of the initial reverse 911 alert that the fugitive was no longer at large, Saunders said.

Late Monday evening, the New Mexico Office of Medical Investigators confirmed the identity of Sherwood, adding that the investigation is continuing to determine Sherwood’s cause of death.

On Monday evening, the FBI released the following statement: “The Albuquerque FBI Division continues to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate all facets of the case involving Rex Michael Sherwood. We want to assure the public we will conduct a thorough and exhaustive investigation. Until we have completed this investigation, we will have no further comment.”

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the FBI at (505) 889-1300.

No officers were injured in any of the dealings with Sherwood — a fact for which Jicarilla Apache Nation President Levi Pesata said he is grateful.

“I am grateful that no one was hurt in melee,” said Pesata in a statement to the press. “ ... the Jicarilla police department does have state and federal certified officers with credentials to assist and support non-tribal law enforcement agencies in any situation. I want to thank our Chief of Police and our officers as well as the Jicarilla Game and Fish department for performing their duty in a secure and professional manner as well as maintaining the safety of the community of Dulce and Lumberton. I would also like thank the New Mexico state police and SWAT Team for rapidly responding to the call, the community of Dulce is once again safe and we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”

randi@pagosasun.com

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