Monte Verde Lake – Angel Fire Police Chief Brad McCaslin and Lt. J.D. Harvey studied a five-foot-high heap of ash, melted plastic and twisted metal Monday afternoon (May 6) where a house burned …
Monte Verde Lake – Angel Fire Police Chief Brad McCaslin and Lt. J.D. Harvey studied a five-foot-high heap of ash, melted plastic and twisted metal Monday afternoon (May 6) where a house burned down and a local officer fatally shot a man who was allegedly armed with a knife Sunday morning (May 5).
The New Mexico State Police Investigations Bureau is looking into the shooting, but had not identified the man who was killed or the officer who shot him outside the burning home as of Monday night.
Local residents say these are extremely rare events for this high-mountain resort village 40 minutes east of Taos, where vacation homes abound and the town's population shrinks to around 1,000 full-time residents when the local ski resort closes for the summer season.
"I've been here five and a half years and I can't think of any officer involved shootings before or after I arrived here," Lt. Harvey said looking at the pile of scorched debris that left by the fire. "Have you ever seen a home burned like that?"
The structure fire was reported at 2:45 a.m. Sunday morning at 14 Mountain Lake Terrace, not far from Monte Verde Lake.
Angel Fire Fire Chief John Murtagh said his crew responded within eight minutes to find the home in flames and collapsed in on itself. They were quickly joined by at least one officer from Angel Fire Police and firefighters from Moreno valley and Eagle Nest, he said.
Sometime as they were fighting the fire, the local officer, who has still not been identified, fired shots at the man who was allegedly armed with a knife. The man later died of his wounds in the back of an ambulance that arrived at the scene, but state police said his identity is pending an investigation by the New Mexico Office of the Medical Examiner.
The lack of answers from authorities regarding the man's identity or the circumstances surrounding the fire have led local residents to speculate about what might have happened before the fire was reported.
Lieutenant Harvey and Chief McCaslin would not comment on the investigations into the fire or the shooting, but they and their fellow officers appeared to be searching for something at the crime scene Monday afternoon.
Half-burnt photos and old magazines blew among the huge pile of ashes. A steel oven stood intact on top of the heap. All around the yard, blue crime scene gloves had been discarded.
Three vehicles that didn't belong to police were parked at the front of the property. One of them appeared to have been burned and gutted by the fire.
After the officers drove away on Monday, a neighbor, Gretchen Brockfeld, walked past the crime scene with her dog.
"The whole community is on edge right now," she said. "I've lived here for a little over a year. There's a lot of part-timers, a lot of rental homes, not many that are full time. A lot of the neighbors are very friendly. We hang out. We have barbecues."
Brockfeld also lives on Mountain Lake Terrace. She said there were two people who lived at the home, but her interactions with them, she said, were usually just a wave as she passed by.
On Monday, she wasn't sure where they were.
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