Officials detail fatal police shooting of gunman in crisis

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Wendel Tagle, 43 (Courtesy of the Albuquerque Police Department)

Wendel Tagle’s mental distress when he called 911 on July 20 meant the Albuquerque Community Safety Department dispatched a mobile crisis team — consisting of an officer and a counselor — to his apartment in Westside.

Tagle, 43, reported that his colleague was sending him tea in the post and he feared it was toxic. He and his wife said they had been extremely stressed from work and it was affecting their marriage.

But they also said they felt safe in the apartment and there was no history of physical fights or violence, so officers directed them to counseling and left, according to a incident report.

At a news conference on Friday, city officials explained how the situation escalated from a welfare check that lasted less than an hour to a fatal shooting by police on the following day.

“Unfortunately, in this situation, the past was not able to predict what it would do in the future,” said ACS director Mariela Ruiz-Angel.

She said that to ACS’s knowledge, Tagle has not been diagnosed with a mental illness.

Deputy Commander. Kyle Hartsock of the Albuquerque Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division said that for officers to request the removal of Tagle’s firearms under the Red Flag Firearms Act, they should have show that there was an immediate threat of danger.

Tagle has no criminal history in New Mexico, according to online court records.

“Violent statements were not made,” Hartsock said. “Perhaps it’s more general paranoia that he experiences when he himself calls 911 the day before. So, I think it was something that escalated overnight, and it was very immediate and quick.

Police Chief Harold Medina said the department is trying to make the red flag law easier to use.

“It’s going to take not only resources, but, in this case, I think it’s also going to take community and systemic education,” Medina said. “I think we also need to educate the rest of the system about the red flag law and how it can be used.”

He said the incident illustrated the intersection of “mental health and shootings involving officers”.

“I’ve been a big advocate for some people with violent backgrounds to stay in jail to reduce violent crime,” Medina said. “But I also said that, you know, we need to properly fund resources for people with mental health issues and people with addiction issues.”

Hartsock said on July 21 that the incident began with a fight between Tagle and his wife of 14 years at the Core Vistas apartments at Seven Bar Ranch near Coors and Alameda NW. He said Tagle’s wife later told officers he started talking with imaginary people he thought were in their home. Tagle’s wife declined to comment to the Journal.

“She tried to leave because she started getting scared of Wendel,” Hartsock said. “Wendel physically prevented her from leaving the apartment by grabbing and strangling her in the living room. At one point, Wendel armed himself with a handgun which fired inside the apartment.

Hartsock said Wendel’s wife convinced him to leave and tell the neighbors they were fine, but “once outside he started dragging his wife back into the apartment.”

“As she struggled not to go back inside the apartment, the gun was fired again by Wendel and hit his wife in the leg,” Hartsock said. “Wendel’s wife was able to escape his grasp and found a hiding place in the apartment complex. According to witnesses, Wendel then began to drive around the compound, possibly in an attempt to find his wife, and in doing so pointed the gun at several different people.

The officers’ back camera video shows a sergeant arriving and meeting Tagle before running behind a building. Tagle is not visible on the video, but the sergeant can be heard talking on his radio saying that the suspect has two firearms.

Then K9 Unit Officer Robert Sanchez arrived and shouted “drop the gun” several times before firing at least six shots, killing Tagle. The view from the backhand camera of Sanchez is entirely obstructed, but the banging and the sound of people screaming can be heard.

When officers approached Tagle’s body, they found a gun that had been hit by a bullet next to his foot.

“Officer Sanchez, in his interview, said that when he fired, Wendel was armed with a gun and began to … point it at him,” Hartsock said. “That’s why he made the decision to shoot.”

He said that, had Tagle survived, he would have been charged with aggravated assault of a family member with a deadly weapon. The investigation into his shooting by the Multi-Agency Task Force and the Force’s Internal Affairs Division is ongoing.

Sanchez has been with APD since 2015 and was involved in previous filming. In December 2018, he and four other officers shot 36-year-old Jason Scott Perez. According to police, Perez was pulled over in a stolen car and shot at officers before they returned fire, killing him.

Police found a gun next to Wendel Tagle’s body. (Courtesy of ODA)

After the Tagle shooting, Sanchez was placed on administrative leave, which is standard. He has since returned to work in the same unit.

Officer Robert Sanchez (Courtesy of APD)