Three Las Cruces police officers seriously injured in separate incidents in the span of 12 days in 2021 have overcome tremendous obstacles and many grueling hours of recovery to return to their respective duties.
Patrol officer Manny Soto and Traffic officers Josh Herrera and Adrian De La Garza were seriously injured in separate incidents between Feb. 3 and Feb. 15, 2021. Soto and Herrera were run over by vehicles as suspects eluded police. De La Garza was shot when he helped end the multi-agency pursuit of the man who killed a New Mexico State Police officer on Interstate 10.
“We’re extremely grateful that officers Adrian De La Garza, Josh Herrera and Manny Soto have recovered from their injuries and are back with us,” said LCPD Chief Miguel Dominguez. “Las Cruces should be proud of these men who serve their community well and put their lives on the line for us all.
“It’s great to see these officers back on their feet and moving forward. We are all very proud of them.”
On Feb. 3, 2021, Traffic officer Josh Herrera conducted a traffic stop on a white Chevrolet Tahoe at 1900 N. Solano Drive. Herrera had a brief interaction with the driver, 28-year-old Joel Orozco, before learning Orozco had a felony warrant for his arrest. Herrera advised Orozco to turn off the vehicle and exit. Instead, Orozco put the Tahoe into drive and accelerated from the traffic stop.
Herrera, who was partially inside the open driver-side door, was seriously injured after being dragged by the fleeing vehicle. Orozco was located and taken into custody about an hour later.
The very next day, on Feb. 4, 2021, Traffic officer Adrian De La Garza responded to multi-jurisdiction pursuit of a pickup driven by 39-year-old Omar Felix Cueva who, minutes earlier, shot and killed New Mexico State Police officer Darian Jarrott on I-10 west of Las Cruces. As the pursuit neared Las Cruces, De La Garza moved his unit into position behind Cueva’s pickup and performed a successful PIT maneuver that ended the pursuit.
Cueva exited his pickup, approached De La Garza’s unit and fired multiple rounds at De La Garza. De La Garza, despite receiving a gunshot wound to his right bicep, his dominant arm, returned fire and struck Cueva. De La Garza’s actions ended the pursuit and brought resolution to the traumatic incident.
Just 11 days later, on Feb. 15, 2021, Patrol officer Manny Soto responded to a welfare check on 40-year-old Mark James Esquibel who was parked in a stall at the Sonic Drive-In, 2925 N. Main St. As officers attempted to gain compliance from Esquibel, he put his vehicle into drive and accelerated through the stall, striking Soto.
Officer Soto was seriously injured during the incident.
Herrera, De La Garza and Soto all faced tremendous obstacles, multiple surgeries and long, tedious therapy sessions on their respective roads to recovery. As of Dec. 5, 2022, all three are back at work.
“Having all three officers back is a great way to end the year,” said Dominguez. “It says a lot about a person’s character to be knocked down, to stare at adversity and come back stronger than before.”