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Tuesday, January 3, 2023

The Trials of Ex-Deputy Sheriff Tai Chan

     After transporting an inmate back to jail in Safford, Arizona, Jeremy Martin and Tai Chan, deputies with the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office in Santa Fe, New Mexico, checked into a hotel in Las Cruces.

     Jeremy Martin, a 29-year-old with a wife and three children, had been on the force as a patrol officer for two and a half years. Tai Chan, 27, a member of the department's investigative bureau, had been a deputy three years. Both were considered hard working members of the sheriff's office.

     On Monday October 29, 2014, after checking into the Hotel Encanto in Las Cruces, the deputies began drinking at Dublin's Pub. It was there the officers got into an argument. Just after midnight the officers returned to the hotel room where the fight continued.

     At one-thirty in the morning of October 30, a 911 caller from the hotel reported hearing six gunshots coming from the vicinity of the deputies' 7th floor room. When officers with the Las Cruces Police Department arrived at the hotel they encountered Deputy Martin staggering out of a 7th floor elevator. The bleeding man had been shot in the back and arms.

     Shortly after being shot several times, Jeremy Martin died at the Mountain View Regional Medical Center. Based on the physical evidence at the homicide scene, investigators believed the victim had been shot as he fled the hotel room.

     Shortly after discovering the victim, police officers found Deputy Chan in a stairwell near the hotel roof. That's where they took him into custody on suspicion of murder.

     Las Cruces officers booked Tai Chan into the Dona Ana County Jail on an open charge of murder. The judge denied him bond. The next day, the sheriff of Santa Fe County announced that Tai Chan had been dismissed from the force.

    Chan's murder trials, held in 2016 and 2017, each ended in mistrials. In both cases, Tai Chan testified that he had shot Deputy Jeremy Martin in self defense during a heated alcohol fueled fight. Prosecutors in 2018 charged the defendant for the third time. That case, involving the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, was dismissed by District Judge Conrad Perea in October of 2018 on grounds of due process related to the prosecution's charging procedure.

     In December 2018, the Santa Fe County District Attorney's Office re-charged Tai Chan with voluntary manslaughter, but in June 2020 Judge Conrad Perea dismissed the case. Tai chan would not be held criminally responsible for Deputy Martin's death.

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