By Darrell Todd Maurina
A Clovis man fleeing police was arrested inside Barry Elementary School on Tuesday morning.
Authorities said no one was injured at the school and students were safely locked behind classroom doors as officers chased the man through the hallways.
The New Mexico State Police said the incident began about 8:05 a.m. when the Clovis Police Department issued a lookout for a blue Chevrolet Camaro whose driver, later identified as Guillermo Gonzales of Clovis, was a suspect in an aggravated assault that occurred earlier in the morning.
About 13 minutes later, a state police officer saw a vehicle matching the description, initiated pursuit, and attempted to stop it, police said.
Instead of stopping, the vehicle accelerated to speeds exceeding 100 mph north on Martin Luther King Boulevard, east on Llano Estacado, and north on Thornton where it crashed into another vehicle. State police said the driver then exited the car and fled on foot into the elementary school.
Police said the other driver involved in the accident sought medical treatment for minor injuries, but no other injuries were reported.
Barry principal Carrie Bunce said after the man entered the school and pursuing police explained the situation, school staff gave an emergency order via the intercom for teachers to lock all classroom doors.
School officials also moved students to secure locations within the classrooms while officers chased the man through the hallways.
Bunce said the students remained behind locked doors about 15 minutes although police took only a few minutes to capture the fugitive.
Police said they finally caught up with the man inside the school as he was trying to break through a door.
Police said Gonzales was carrying a knife in his pocket and resisted arrest but did not use the knife while trying to get free.
“This was one of those things we were lucky did not turn into a great big tragedy,” said Capt. Oscar Gonzalez of the New Mexico State Police. “We’re not sure what his plans were when he went into the building. He may have been looking for an avenue of escape once he got into the building but it is a maze in there and he got lost.”
Capt. Gonzalez praised the cooperation of school staff.
“They have implemented a procedure where they can lock down the school very quickly,” he said.
“I think this is a very good measure the schools have taken in Clovis because it shows they are very aware of some safety issues. The officer was able to focus on the person being pursued and not have to worry about the safety of students or teachers.”
Bunce said she had never before had a fleeing suspect enter her school in 13 years of teaching but was glad the Clovis district has procedures in place to ensure student safety.
“This is just not an everyday occurrence, thank goodness,” Bunce said.
“The schools have plans in place for student safety — that is one of our primary concerns — and this is an example of how well those plans are practiced and that they do work.”
Bunce said Clovis schools have regular drills for a number of events ranging from fire drills to school invasions.
“We have procedures in place that are much like a fire alarm,” Bunce said.
“The lockdown drill is something we don’t practice real frequently and most of the kids didn’t know if it was a drill or a real person who wasn’t supposed to be in the building.”
Police said criminal complaints against the suspect include aggravated fleeing, possession of a weapon on school property, failure to stop after an accident, no insurance, driving while license revoked and criminal trespassing.
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Brett Carter said he hasn’t reviewed the charges in detail, but if the charges remain as initially proposed, the suspect could face up to six years in prison if convicted.
He is currently held in the Curry County Adult Detention Center without bond, since he had been on probation and will be charged with violating the terms of his probation.