ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A somber Albuquerque police chief stood surrounded by dozens of law enforcement officials Thursday as he described a well-liked, highly decorated officer who was gunned down outside a pharmacy last week.
Officer Daniel Webster died early Thursday at University of New Mexico Hospital, a little more than a week after he was shot by an ex-convict, Chief Gorden Eden said. Webster’s death followed an especially violent week in New Mexico’s largest city in which police say another gunman shot and killed a 4-year-old girl amid a road rage dispute.
Webster had suffered gunshot wounds to his upper body and jaw on the night of Oct. 21, and he had undergone emergency surgeries after Davon Lymon opened fire on him outside a pharmacy, authorities said.
The veteran officer’s wife, who is a local sheriff’s deputy, and other relatives remained by his side in the days after the shooting as restaurants held fundraisers to support the family and hotels donated lodging for relatives.
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“It was impossible to know him and not love him,” Stephanie Lopez, president of the local police union, said through tears. “Dan was the type of person that would go above and beyond his call of duty. Every contact with every citizen he made, he definitely made a lasting impression.”
Officer Tanner Tixier said Webster, an eight-year police veteran and former Army Ranger, was “always on 100 percent of the time” and colleagues never saw him idle. He kept up with residents on his beat and engaged with youth in his command area. Webster, a detective and 2013 uniformed officer of the year, had recently returned to patrol duties amid a shortage of officers.
Since the shooting, Eden and other law enforcement officials have called on the Legislature to enact sentencing reforms and increase resources for police and prosecutors in high-crime areas, contending the man accused of shooting Webster shouldn’t have been on the streets the night he opened fire.
Lymon, the 34-year-old suspect, has been in and out of the court system for years and pleaded guilty more than a decade ago to voluntary manslaughter. When Webster was shot, Lymon was facing misdemeanor battery charges. In May, police issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm. That case was dismissed in July, court records show.
Lymon’s record and the histories of men charged in other high-profile cases, including the recent road rage shooting, have led law enforcement officials to criticize the state’s justice system, saying lax sentencing laws and an untargeted approach to funding crime-fighting efforts is contributing to an uptick in Albuquerque’s violent crime rates.
“I think it’s unfortunate that it took the death of a little girl and one of our finest officers to make this city see the problem we are having,” said Lopez, the union president. “It’s a danger not only for our department and the men and women who serve but also the community.”
Authorities have said Webster pulled over Lymon for riding a motorcycle with a stolen license plate, and the suspect was later found hiding in a shed with a handcuff on his left wrist. A .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol was found in a vacant lot where Lymon headed after the shooting, authorities also said.
Lymon is in federal custody and faces one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. A judge has ordered him to remain jailed pending trial.
“We condemn this act in the strongest possible terms,” said Damon Martinez, U.S. attorney for New Mexico.
Additional state charges against Lymon are expected, with the timing depending on the outcome of an ongoing police investigation, District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said.
Detectives are not rushing the investigation because Lymon being held on federal charges allows them time to build as thorough of a case possible, Officer Tixier said.
The federal public defender’s office has declined comment on the case.