Officials identify shooting victim

Search continues for suspect in man’s death southwest of Ignacio

A La Plata County Sheriff’s Office investigator on Wednesday photographs evidence at the scene of a fatal shooting that happened Tuesday afternoon at the Cedar Point Ute West subdivision southwest of Ignacio. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

A La Plata County Sheriff’s Office investigator on Wednesday photographs evidence at the scene of a fatal shooting that happened Tuesday afternoon at the Cedar Point Ute West subdivision southwest of Ignacio.

Authorities on Wednesday identified the victim of Tuesday’s shooting as Joey Benavidez, 39, of Ignacio.

Benavidez was shot multiple times about 4:10 p.m. inside his mother’s house in the 200 block of Mountain Dew Circle in the Cedar Point subdivision, a couple of miles southwest of Ignacio.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The shooting suspect remained at large Wednesday, said Dan Bender, spokesman for the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office.

Witnesses described the suspect as a man with a dark complexion, about 5 feet 6 inches tall, in his early to mid-20s, with a buzzed haircut, and a thin goatee sometimes called a soul patch.

He was said to have tattoos on both arms and a large tattoo on the back of his right hand. He was wearing a dark jacket similar to a high school letterman’s jacket with leather sleeves.

Authorities searched on foot and with a K-9 tracker for several hours Tuesday night before suspending the effort Wednesday after exhausting all leads, Bender said.

“We don’t believe it was a random shooting, so we don’t feel like there are any concerns that the public needs to have,” he said.

Neighbors said they heard several loud popping sounds from inside the house and saw Benavidez stumble outside and collapse.

One neighbor, who identified himself only as Lawrence, said his family was preparing to go to dinner when the shooting occurred.

“My son said he heard gunshots, and I said, ‘No you didn’t,’” Lawrence said.

Two men drove away in a blue pickup with New Mexico license plates.

A sheriff’s deputy located the pickup at 4:28 p.m. parked on the side of the road in the 6000 block of U.S. Highway 550, a couple of miles north of Bondad. Only one person was inside the truck seated in the driver’s seat. The man was arrested and interviewed by police.

The 18-year-old driver from Farmington told investigators he picked up a hitchhiker on U.S. Highway 550, drove him to the home, went inside and witnessed the shooting, Bender said. The shooter used two handguns, he told authorities.

Investigators are calling the man a witness to the shooting, not a suspect. He was released Tuesday night after showing police where he dropped off the shooter.

The man’s name was not being released Wednesday.

“We actually have several witnesses, and we’re not releasing any of the other witnesses’ names,” Bender said.

Investigators also declined to say how many shots were fired and where inside the house the shooting occurred.

Benavidez divided his time between his mother’s house in Ignacio and a residence in California, Bender said. He was known to local law enforcement, however, his previous run-ins with the law were not immediately available Wednesday.

“He’s considered a local resident,” Bender said.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Investigator Dan Patterson at 382-7015 or Investigator Jim Hendricks at 382-7018.

shane@durangoherald.com

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