Who Was Officer Jose Chavez? The New Mexico Police Officer Was Relentless In Pursuing His Dreams

On Sunday, Aug. 21, a New Mexico police officer was memorialized after his death in the line of duty. Thousands gathered in Las Cruces to pay their respects, including the governor, Susana Martinez. Who was Officer Jose Chavez? He was a law enforcement officer in Hatch, New Mexico who made a routine traffic stop when one passenger, a fugitive from Ohio, exited the car and shot him. He was transferred to a hospital in El Paso, Texas, where he died from his wounds.

Chavez, 33 and born in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, had always wanted to be a police officer, friends and family told reporters at the memorial service. Until just a few years ago, he had worked at an animal shelter, Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley. The center's director, Beth Vesco-Mock, told The Las Cruces Sun-News how far Chavez had come since she hired him in 2008. He had really begun to achieve his goals:

He was not a U.S. citizen at the time, and didn’t have his GED. While he worked at the shelter, he took night classes to get his citizenship, his GED, and even graduated from Doña Ana Community College. He always wanted to be a police officer. That’s all he wanted to do.

Vesco-Mock had encouraged him to take the job, adding that nothing ever happened in Hatch, a town near Las Cruces with fewer than 2,000 people. In fact, many of his tasks on duty included work with animals. Co-workers nicknamed him "Chihuahua Whisperer" because he was so talented at bringing in stray animals when the job called for it.

In 2011, Chavez was granted citizenship, and he was hired in 2014. Hatch police officers read aloud letters explaining how he had exceeded every expectation on the job. Since graduating from community college, he had continued studying for his bachelor's degree in criminal justice. He was 16 credits short.

The service was held at New Mexico State University's Pan American Center. The school's president told reporters he had just registered for fall semester. The Board of Regents will be asked to award him his degree posthumously, The Sun-News reported.

In attendance were many New Mexican public officials. Gov. Martinez spoke at the service. She said that his death was emotional for her, as the daughter and wife of police officers:

I saw my father and my husband walk out the door, every single day, with their uniforms, their bulletproof vests and their guns. It was all they had to protect themselves, but more importantly, to protect you and me. When that call doesn’t come in, or they don’t pull into the driveway on time, your heart starts to beat faster. As a loved one of a law enforcement officer, we know those things are possible.

Martinez also spoke directly to Chavez's children. He is survived by his parents, sisters, and two daughters. "Your daddy will be walking alongside you for the rest of your life as your guardian angel. And his law enforcement brothers and sisters will be there for you as well," Martinez told them. Thousands were in attendance, listening and honoring Chavez's life.