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(Brienne Green – Daily Press)

ARTESIA — A man who stole a Roswell Police Department (RPD) cruiser Thursday afternoon left a path of destruction in his wake before colliding head-on with a vehicle just outside Artesia.

The New Mexico State Police (NMSP) report the incident began Thursday in the area of East Albuquerque Street and South Virginia Avenue in Roswell when an RPD officer stopped to speak with 33-year-old Luiz Gauna of Roswell, who was on a bicycle. Gauna removed three tennis-ball-sized rocks from his pocket and began throwing them at the officer.

The officer was struck twice in the head and once in the arm, enabling Gauna to steal the officer’s patrol vehicle. The officer was able to use his portable radio to report the theft. An RPD pursuit began and continued through the streets of Roswell as Gauna drove recklessly into oncoming traffic, managing to avoid several attempts by law enforcement to utilize tire deflation devices.

The NMSP joined the pursuit once Gauna made his way onto U.S. 285 South. They attempted to deploy tire-deflation devices at the intersection with Darby Road but were unsuccessful, and the pursuit continued toward Artesia.

As Gauna approached the Eddy County line, Eddy County Sheriff’s Office (ECSO) deputies attempted to deploy tire-deflation devices. Gauna was able to avoid them by moving into the oncoming northbound lanes, travelling at speeds around 70 mph.

As he neared the intersection with Cottonwood Road, Gaunta drove the stolen cruiser head on into a silver Dodge club-cab pickup. After the wreck, he exited the patrol car and attempted to gain access to the Dodge. As he began to climb over the female driver of the pickup, officers were able to subdue him and take him into custody.

(Chaves County Sheriff’s Office)

The RPD officer whose cruiser Gaunta stole was treated for minor injuries and released. The female driver of the Dodge was the sole occupant of the pickup and was also treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

Gaunta was airlifted from the scene by Trans Aero MedEvac to an El Paso, Texas, hospital with what are believed to be non-life-threatening injuries. He remains there in the custody of the NMSP on charges of aggravated battery upon a peace officer, aggravated fleeing of a peace officer, and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle. Additional charges are pending as the investigation continues.

Upon his released, Gaura will be booked by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and extradited to New Mexico. The NMSP Crash Reconstruction Unit assisted at the scene, and
the case remains under investigation.

(Brienne Green – Daily Press)