EL PASO, Texas -- A driver's car stalled to a stop after he allegedly fired about 15 shots that critically wounded an El Paso County sheriff's deputy during a traffic stop, Sheriff Richard Wiles said.
Deputy Peter Herrera died Sunday evening at a hospital after being shot during a traffic stop early Friday in San Elizario, Texas, sheriff's officials said.
"It was a very violent and unprovoked attack against the deputy. The deputy never even had the chance to draw his weapon," Wiles said.
Herrera was shot several times when a driver got out of a vehicle and opened fire on Chicken Ranch Road near Socorro Road, sheriff's officials said.
The suspected shooter, Facundo Chavez, was arrested a few blocks away because his car stalled, officials said.
The incident began at about 1:50 a.m. when Herrera pulled over a car because it had only one headlight and an expired registration, Wiles said.
The dangerous encounter was recorded on Herrera's body-worn camera and the dashboard camera of his patrol vehicle, Wiles said.
When the deputy approached the vehicle, Chavez was driving and a woman was in the passenger seat, Wiles said.
"He asked the male driver to step out and immediately upon stepping out, the male pulled a weapon and opened fire," Wiles said.
"We believe there was at least 15 rounds discharged toward the deputy," Wiles said. "Not all of them hit the deputy, some hit his vest. Those that did hit him, did cause significant damage."
One of the gunshots hit Herrera in the head but doctors found it did not enter his brain, said Wiles adding that Herrera was responsive before and after surgery.
"The subject got back in his car and tried to drive away but the car stalled out," Wiles said.
The driver and the woman took off on foot heading north on Socorro Road, threw the weapon in desert and were found hiding in shed a few blocks away, Wiles said.
Investigators also found the gun allegedly used in the shooting.
Backup on its way
After being shot, Herrera was unable to call for help but backup was already on its way because Herrera had radioed for assistance when he first pulled over the car, Wiles said.
A civilian was the first to run up to help the bleeding deputy and called 911, Wiles said. A U.S Border Patrol agent and a sheriff's sergeant arrived quickly at the scene.
Border Patrol agents and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers often help deputies during traffic stops, Wiles said.
"We also want to thank that individual that stopped to help," Wiles said. "A Border Patrol agent and a sheriff's sergeant were pivotal in helping to save that officer's life."
The sergeant placed a tourniquet on Herrera's leg, which helped stem the bleeding, Wiles added.
An investigating is trying to determine why the driver opened fire, the sheriff said.
"We don’t have any motive right now," Wiles said.
Chavez "has a lengthy criminal record — including that he was under investigation for a family violence (case) that occurred two days before against the female who was in that car," Wiles said.
Wiles said that the woman was initially arrested but was released after the Sheriff's Office consulted with prosecutors.
Chavez, 27, was arrested on charges of attempted capital murder of a peace officer and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.
Chavez also had warrants on charges of delivery of marijuana, criminal mischief and assault of a family member, according to jail records.
In 2011, a man named Facundo Chavez was jailed in El Paso after being arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on a charge of re-entry after deportation, according to El Paso County Jail records. It was unclear if it was the same person.
The alleged shooter told sheriff's staff that he was born in Albuquerque, said Wiles, adding that U.S. immigration authorities would handle any questions about his citizenship.
Chavez, who is listed on a jail log as residing in El Paso, is being held at the Downtown jail on a bond of more than $1.5 million.
Community supports deputy
Herrera died Sunday evening after being hospitalized in critical condition and having several surgeries, sheriff's officials said Sunday.
The El Paso County Sheriff's Officers Association had reported that Herrera was responsive and aware of his surroundings at the hospital. His family asked for privacy .
Blood drives in support of Herrera that began Friday continued from 1-5 p.m. Sunday at Cielo Vista Mall and Bassett Place, Acosta said. The blood drives will also help others in need.
An online fundraising drive in support of Herrera had surpassed it's $40,000 goal. More than $42,000 had been raised by late Sunday morning. Click here to donate.
"This is really a tragedy," Wiles said. "It just goes to show you the dangers that law enforcement officers face every day. We tell our officers to never treat a call as routine.
"This is a good example of how a situation can turn deadly in a split second," the sheriff said.
Daniel Borunda may be reached at 546-6102; [email protected]; @BorundaDaniel on Twitter.
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