New Mexico police officer, retired firefighter ID'd in fatal car crash

The police officer joined the force as a cadet in 2015 and is survived by his wife and two teenage boys

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Authorities have identified both the police officer and the uninvolved motorist killed Wednesday in a multi-vehicle crash during the pursuit of a kidnapping suspect in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The crash, which occurred Wednesday morning on Interstate 25, involved two Santa Fe Police patrol units, a white suspect vehicle, and two uninvolved vehicles – a pickup truck, and a blue car.

The Santa Fe Police officer killed in the crash was identified as Robert Duran, 43, a senior officer assigned to the Santa Fe Police Department’s patrol section. The driver of the pickup truck was identified as Frank Lovato, 62, a retired firefighter from Las Vegas, New Mexico, a New Mexico State Police statement said.

GEORGIA POLICE OFFICER SHOT, MANHUNT UNDERWAY

Wednesday's crash involved two Santa Fe Police patrol units, a white suspect vehicle, and two uninvolved vehicles – a pickup truck, and a blue car, police said

Wednesday's crash involved two Santa Fe Police patrol units, a white suspect vehicle, and two uninvolved vehicles – a pickup truck, and a blue car, police said (KRQE)

Duran and Lovato were killed during a police pursuit of a kidnapping and carjacking suspect who was driving the wrong way down the highway, authorities said. Both were pronounced dead at the scene by the state Office of the Medical Investigator. 

Santa Fe interim police Chief Paul Joye said Duran joined the force as a cadet in 2015. He is survived by his wife and two teenage boys.

"[Duran] was well respected and loved by his peers," Joye said, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican. "We as a department and as individuals are still grieving and processing his loss."

The suspect fled after the crash and remained at large as of Thursday, the police statement read. The only description of the man given by authorities was his attire. He was wearing a red shirt, black pants, and a black jacket, police said. 

"The driver in the blue car was transported for non-life-threatening injuries," the statement added. "The events of that crash are still under investigation by the New Mexico State Police Uniform Bureau and New Mexico State Police Crash Reconstruction Unit."

Police originally received a call around 11 a.m., regarding a kidnapping in progress at the Rancho Vizcaya Apartments in Santa Fe. A man armed with a knife allegedly took a vehicle that was occupied by a woman, the Santa Fe Police Department wrote in a news release.

Around 11:15 a.m., police spotted a vehicle in the area that belonged to the potential suspect, the release stated. Officers attempted to stop the vehicle, but the driver fled onto Interstate 25, traveling northbound in the southbound traffic.

NEW MEXICO POLICE OFFICER, CIVILIAN KILLED IN CRASH DURING CHASE FOR KIDNAPPING SUSPECT, AUTHORITIES SAY

"Between the Old Pecos Trail exit and the Eldorado Exit, the driver got on to the northbound lane of traffic traveling southbound," Santa Fe police said. "A crash occurred at Mile Marker 286 in the northbound lane."

The Santa Fe police officer killed in the crash was identified as Robert Duran, 43, a senior officer assigned to the Santa Fe Police Department’s patrol section.

The Santa Fe police officer killed in the crash was identified as Robert Duran, 43, a senior officer assigned to the Santa Fe Police Department’s patrol section. (KRQE)

After the crash, the woman in the fleeing vehicle managed to get out and was transported to a local hospital, police said. She was treated for non-life-threatening injuries and was later released. It was unclear if the woman knew the suspect. 

The driver of the pickup truck was identified as Frank Lovato, 62, a retired firefighter from Las Vegas, New Mexico

The driver of the pickup truck was identified as Frank Lovato, 62, a retired firefighter from Las Vegas, New Mexico (KRQE)

New Mexico State Police said they do not believe there is an ongoing threat to the public, despite the suspect still being on the loose. The incident is being investigated by the New Mexico State Police Investigations Bureau, authorities said. 

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"NMSP is committed to arresting and charging the person that caused this tragic crash that took the life of Santa Fe Police Officer Robert Duran, retired Las Vegas Firefighter Frank Lovato, and brought tragedy to those whose lives will never be the same," the New Mexico State Police statement added.