Posted at: 02/18/2013 6:24 PM
By: Jill Galus, KOB Eyewitness News 4
Photo: Christopher Sandoval
Whether it was road rage or fear, a Santa Fe police officer found himself on the other side of the law, accused of pulling a gun on an unarmed man.
Officer Christopher Sandoval was off-duty when, according to a Rio Rancho police report, a verbal argument in a parking lot at Walgreens off Northern Blvd. led him straight to jail.
Sandoval pulled up to the front of Walgreens while his girlfriend got out of the car to drop off a movie, the report stated. Sandoval told officers Alan Garcia was in the car behind him, "honking, yelling, raising his hands up in the air" and then drove around and parked. Garcia told police as he walked toward the store he said to Sandoval, "he should be courteous to others." At that time, police said, Sandoval pulled out his gun.
"What, in my mind, is more important is how that weapon was used," Santa Fe Police Chief Ray Rael said. "Was there justification for him to pull that weapon; was there justification for his conduct in that situation."
While yelling at Garcia to get inside the store, according to the report, Garcia asked, "Well, what are you, a cop?" to which Sandoval allegedly replied, "Yes, I am a cop."
"There was no indication that the officer has ever been unable to control his temper," Rael said.
According to the report, Sandoval told officers he "never pointed a gun at Garcia," contrary to multiple witness accounts. He added, "Having the gun in his hands de-escalated the situation because as soon as Garcia saw it, he started walking away."
Officers arrested Sandoval for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
He was back at work Monday, but Rael said he has been moved to desk duty pending the outcome of the Rio Rancho police investigation.