Associated Press (AP) State & Regional Wires
Dec. 4, 2020
Activists on Friday rallied in person and online to bring attention to the case of a young Black man who was shot by a New Mexico state police while on a road trip from Indiana to Arizona, while investigators finally provided more details about what led to the deadly encounter.
Rodney Applewhite was on his way to Phoenix to visit family for Thanksgiving when he was shot following a police pursuit and an altercation in which authorities say he grabbed an officer’s gun.
It’s been two weeks since the shooting, and New Mexico State Police on Friday finally confirmed Applewhite… as the man who died. His family had said they were notified of his death but still had questions about what happened that November morning.
State police in an update released Friday said an officer fatally shot Applewhite after he grabbed another officer’s gun as they tried to take him into custody.
The confrontation followed a complex pursuit along a 12-mile stretch of road in Valencia County. Police said Applewhite was traveling more than 90 mph, or more than double the posted speed limit, before abruptly pulling over…vehicle with tire deflation devices, but authorities said the driver avoided them by heading into oncoming traffic, nearly hitting another vehicle. After police decided to stop the pursuit, they said the suspect was later spotted standing in the middle of the road trying to stop traffic.
As officers tried talking to Applewhite, he kneeled on the ground and made the symbol of a gun with his right hand toward his head, according to police.
Authorities said Officer Gene Gonzales fired twice when Applewhite grabbed another officer’s gun and tried to pull it from the holster. Moments later, they said, the suspect…be heard on an officer’s body-worn camera saying, “Can you finish me, please?” to which Gonzales replied, “No.”
Officers asked the suspect why he tried to take the sergeant’s gun and he responded, “That’s what I thought you were supposed to do,” authorities said.
Authorities also said that while officers were aiding Applewhite, he tried to stand up and directed expletives at them and called them Mexicans, saying “that’s why I am coming for all you all.”
State police also reported that Applewhite was suspected of trying to break in to a home in the nearby community of Belen earlier that morning….cars planned to “make some noise” to make sure Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham heard them.
“We are here to ask you to intervene,” Guerrero said as she stood outside the governor’s residence.
Just a week earlier, another drive-in protest was held in Albuquerque in which people carried signs that read “Justice for Rodney,” and “Black Lives Matter.”
State Police say the investigation is ongoing and once complete the findings will be forwarded to the district attorney’s office for review.
Associated Press writer Susan Montoya Bryan contributed to this report.