The Third Judicial District Attorney’s Office has concluded that a Las Cruces police officer’s actions were justified when he fired several bean bag rounds toward a stabbing suspect who ignored multiple commands to drop a knife and comply with officers during a March 23 incident at the Mesilla Valley Mall.
Joshua James LeNoir, 31, of the 2800 block of Swartz Road, was charged with two third-degree felony counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and a second-degree felony count of aggravated burglary with a deadly weapon. He’s also charged with misdemeanor counts of battery, criminal damage to property and resisting, evading or obstructing an officer.
Police believe the incident started as a shoplifting shortly before 9 p.m. Saturday, March 23, in the Dillard’s west store at the Mesilla Valley Mall. Investigators learned LeNoir was suspected of shoplifting from Dil lard’s and, as he approached an exit to the west parking lot, was confronted by a female store security officer. The security officer and LeNoir exchanged words before LeNoir punched her in the face and torso.
Police learned LeNoir then ran through Dillard’s toward the mall entrance where several employees tried to detain him. The employees had LeNoir on the floor for a moment until the suspect pulled out a pocket knife and slashed a male employee’s arm. LeNoir fled Dillard’s into the mall where a Verizon Wireless employee, who heard the commotion, was standing. LeNoir stabbed the Verizon employee and continued running into the mall. Several Dillard’s employees followed as LeNoir ran through the mall and into the Dillard’s store on the east side of the mall. The Dillard’s employees followed and alerted bystanders that the fleeing suspect was armed.
Investigators learned LeNoir exited Dillard’s through the southeast doors and, in the parking lot, entered the driver’s side of a Dodge Journey as a woman was buckling her 1-year-old daughter in the backseat. The woman’s husband and their 3-year-old son, on the driver’s side of the SUV, moved out of harm’s way and the woman was able to safely remove their daughter. The keys were not in the SUV so LeNoir was unable to start it.
Investigators determined that several people assisted in barricading LeNoir inside the SUV for a brief time. LeNoir tried to escape by kicking the windows. He then used the knife to break a window and make an escape into the parking lot.
Las Cruces police officers arrived to find LeNoir in the parking lot on the east side of the mall. LeNoir was still armed with the knife and officers gave multiple commands for him to drop it. Officers discharged multiple Taser rounds, but they had little effect on LeNoir who remained armed with the knife, non-compliant with commands and continued walking away. Officer Jameal Landrum, a Las Cr uces police officer for two years, fired eight bean-bag rounds attempting to disarm LeNoir but they were largely ineffective as officers were unable to gain compliance through those means.
LeNoir was ultimately disarmed and taken into custody on the southeast side of the mall, near the east entrance to J.C. Penney. LeNoir sustained multiple injuries from bean-bag hits and falling face-first onto the asphalt after multiple Taser strikes. He was transported to University Medical Center of El Paso and has since been released to a rehabilitation facility.
The Verizon Wireless employee who was stabbed was transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. He has since been released. The Dillard’s employee received a cut to a forearm but declined transportation to a hospital.
The investigation revealed that LeNoir ignored more than 100 commands from officers to drop the knife in the roughly five minutes before he was detained. The invest igation also revealed that 15 bean-bag rounds were deployed, and eight officers discharged their Taser. LeNoir was non-compliant until after the final bean bag round was fired.
Detectives conducted an extensive investigation and interviewed multiple victims and witnesses. On March 28, investigators presented facts of the case to a Magistrate Court judge who issued a warrant for LeNoir’s arrest. He was indicted by a grand jury on Thursday, May 9, on the original felony charges plus a charge of felony shoplifting as investigators determined that he had stolen more than $1,000 worth of merchandise from Dillard’s.
Because of the complexity of the incident, the investigation was handled by the Officer-involved Incident Task Force. The task force includes investigators from the Las Cruces Police Department, New Mexico State Police, Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico State University Police. The task force then submitted its finding to the Third Jud icial District Attorney’s Office for review and determination if charges were warranted.