Mountainair police officer honored 25 years after death

Posted at: 05/07/2013 5:41 PM
By: Joseph Lynch, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A New Mexico officer was shot and killed inside the police department where he worked. At first investigators thought it was suicide, but eventually the death of officer Stephen Sandlin was classified a murder.

25 years later, the case is cold. No arrests, No resolutions. But today something happened, turning things for Sandlin's family from bitter to sweet.

Officer Stephen Sandlin was just 21 years old, on the job for Mountainair Police for just 2 months when he was shot to death. Town leaders think they have righted a wrong by honoring him 25 years to the day after his murder.

Mountainair Police Chief Robert Chung did the honors of retiring Sandlin's badge.

"I hereby retire Mountainair Police Patrolman Shield #4 in recognition of Police Officer Stephen A. Sandlin line of duty death on May 7th 1988."

That means no other officer here will ever wear shield #4. They also unveiled a monument in front of the building where Sandlin was killed. His son was just a toddler when his father was killed. He's only had stories about his Dad to hold on to. Now he has something more.

"It's great. My grandfather is just so happy about this and the town doing this. He's proud of his son, my dad. So it's just great that they did it."

Melissa Chavez is Sandlin's sister. She spoke to him just moments before he was killed. The question haunts her and the town of Mountainair.

"It's extremely hard not to know. Who killed him? I mean, somebody, somebody out there knows. Even 25 years later, somebody still remembers and I wish somebody would come forward."

Five months before Sandlin was killed, Mountainair Police got a tip that an officer was going to be shot by drug dealers. But because there were no specifics, police say they could not act on it.