By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
Three Clovis police officers involved in shooting a murder suspect this week will probably be back at work this weekend or by Monday at the latest, Chief Bill Carey said.
Officials said Officers Roger Dial and Mike Harmer and Agent Robbie Telles all discharged their weapons when Jerry Fuller approached them in an aggressive manner with a gun in his hand early Tuesday morning. Fuller was shot three times in the upper body. Officials said eight shots were fired by police from a distance of 50 to 65 feet.
Fuller, who police later determined was threatening them with a pellet or BB gun, underwent surgery for his wounds and remains in a Lubbock hospital in stable condition. He faces two counts of open murder in connection with last week’s deaths of longtime Portales residents Odis and Doris Newman.
The officers involved were placed on routine administrative leave for three days with pay following the incident. A grand jury will ultimately determine if they were justified in their actions, but Chief Carey said he has no doubt they acted appropriately.
“I think they showed extreme restraint,” Carey said.
All three officers are part of Clovis PD’s Special Response Team, asked to assist Roosevelt County officials in arresting Fuller.
Lt. Jimmy Glascock of the New Mexico State Police said two separate investigations usually take place following a police-involved shooting.
“(The first) investigation will focus on law to determine what the facts are, and if the officers acted in accordance with law — state, local, federal,” Glascock said.
“The other would be an administrative-type hearing, which is conducted by the individual agencies in nature relating to the departmental policies.”
Meanwhile, the officers are afforded the services of police chaplains and counselors, Carey said.
“We have a complete support system for them,” Carey said.
Agent Roman Romero of the Clovis Police Department was not directly involved in Tuesday’s shooting, but he was there and said he knows what Dial, Harmer and Telles were going through.
“You realize in that moment, when everything is slowing down a little bit, that you could be dead, you could have been injured, someone you cared about could have been shot or injured or killed,” Romero said.
“You think about your family and your children.”
Romero is no stranger to potentially deadly situations.
As a Marine in the first Gulf War he participated in fire fights as his unit pushed across the desert.
He was also on the scene in December of 2002 when Clovis Police Detective Keith Bessett was shot while pursuing a suspect. Officers returned fire and seriously wounded the suspect.
Romero himself shot a suspect in late 2000 during a check-fraud investigation. That man died a few months later. A Curry County grand jury cleared Romero of any wrongdoing in the shooting.
“I was angry at the person I shot for putting me in a position where I had to do that to him,” Romero said. “(But) I was more scared for my family, my parents, my child, all the other guys around me who were going to be affected.”