UNITED STATES NEWS

Prosecutors charge a South Carolina man with carjacking and the killing of a New Mexico officer

Mar 22, 2024, 11:50 AM | Updated: 1:16 pm

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A South Carolina man has been charged with two federal counts stemming from the killing of a New Mexico state police officer, federal and state prosecutors announced Friday.

An unsealed criminal complaint charges Jaremy Smith, 33, with two counts: carjacking resulting in death and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

Smith was shackled and wearing a hospital gown and pants during his initial court appearance Friday. His left arm was in a sling and a public defender asked the judge whether the defendant could remain seated, as he was in pain from the injuries suffered during his capture.

The judge ordered Smith held in federal custody and set another hearing for next week.

Alexander Uballez, the U.S. attorney in Albuquerque, thanked the gas station clerk whose tip lead to Smith being captured, describing her as “a brave civilian working a normal job 100 miles away from a terrible crime.”

“I want members of our community to remember that last weekend’s tragedy was bookended by hope, by strangers doing the right thing for people they’ve never met,” he said.

Uballez declined to answer questions about Smith’s movements from South Carolina to eastern New Mexico or how he got to Albuquerque after allegedly gunning down the officer before dawn on March 15.

Smith was captured by sheriff’s deputies following the gas station clerk’s tip. He was chased on foot and wounded by gunfire after he reached for his waistband as officers closed in, according to the criminal complaint. Authorities found a 9mm pistol nearby. Smith was taken to a hospital for treatment, where he had remained under guard for several days.

South Carolina authorities also have identified Smith as a person of interest in the killing of a paramedic there whose stolen car was involved in the killing of the New Mexico officer. Charges have yet to be filed in that case.

State Police Officer Justin Hare was dispatched about 5 a.m. on March 15 in Tucumcari to help a motorist in a white BMW on Interstate 40, authorities said.

Hare parked behind the BMW and a man got out, approached the patrol car on the passenger side and then the two began talking about a flat tire, the criminal complaint states. The officer offered Smith a ride to a nearby town because no repair shop was open at that hour and after the officer asked Smith to walk in front of his patrol vehicle, gunfire erupted.

Authorities said Smith then got into the driver’s seat of the officer’s vehicle and drove away with the officer still inside. The duress signal on the officer’s radio had been triggered and other officers responded.

State Police later learned the BMW had been reported missing in South Carolina and belonged to a woman who was killed there — Phonesia Machado-Fore, 52, a Marion County paramedic.

Authorities there found Machado-Fore’s body Friday evening outside Lake View in neighboring Dillon County. The coroner said earlier this week that Machado-Fore died from a gunshot to the head fired by someone else. No other details from her autopsy were released.

Smith has been assigned public defenders who had yet to speak on his behalf Friday.

Authorities have said Smith had ties to New Mexico, having spent time there in the past, and had a long criminal history.

A review of South Carolina Department of Corrections records show he spent eight years in prison on charges of attempted armed robbery and hostage taking before being released on parole in Marion County in December 2023. The records also show numerous infractions while he was incarcerated from possessing a weapon to attacking or attempting to injure employees and inmates.

Hare had been with the state police agency since 2018. Born and raised in New Mexico, he is survived by his parents, girlfriend, and their two young children. He and his girlfriend also had a child on the way.

At a vigil in Tucumcari on Wednesday night, about 200 people paid their respects to the officer as state police vehicles flashed their lights and people held candles and cellphones. A funeral for Hare is scheduled for next Wednesday.

___

Associated Press writers Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina, and Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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Prosecutors charge a South Carolina man with carjacking and the killing of a New Mexico officer