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Lea Commissioner nabs burglars

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Three alleged burglars picked the wrong residence to burglarize early Monday, when Lea County Commissioner Dean Jackson pointed a .22 caliber rifle at a suspect he allegedly caught robbing his garage.

Jackson said he called authorities while pointing his gun at a suspect from about 150 feet away, as two more suspects sprinted away from his property on Western Trail Road, southwest of Lovington.

“I just handled the situation. I don’t know what else to say,” Jackson said.

Jackson, who was elected Lea County Commissioner of District 1 in 2016, talked to the News-Sun Tuesday, the day after he confronted the three suspects who gained entry to his property from the garage door. He said items have gone missing from the garage in the past so he wasn’t startled by the suspects.

“It was the thieves who were shooken up,” he said.

The alleged thieves were reportedly in the act of removing $675 worth of property when Jackson caught them.

They removed three large wrenches, two grinders, one hammer drill, a chop saw and other miscellaneous tools from the garage, said Lea County sheriff’s deputy Vivian Martinez. The items were sprawled out on the lawn or next to the car ready to be loaded up and taken away when Jackson arrived, authorities reported.

Prior to the confrontation, Jackson was feeding his horses when he noticed a suspicious, maroon car parked in his driveway as he approached his home in his vehicle.

“They heard me pull up and came running out,” he said.

Jackson said he was thankful the Lea County Sheriff’s Office got there soon after he called. Deputies were at the scene within five to seven minutes and they found the two fleeing suspects about 30 minutes later, he said.

A criminal complaint obtained by the News-Sun says deputies arrived at Jackson’s property at 6:23 a.m. Jackson was 30 feet from the roadway inside the property fence line when authorities arrived, Martinez said. Six deputies, two sergeants and one investigator responded to the call, Martinez said.

Deputies apprehended Christopher Kephart, 32, and called the Lovington Police K-9 unit to help search for the other two suspects, who reportedly left a trail of footprints leading away from Jackson’s home.

Police said they found Angel Fabian Lozoya, 38, hiding in a bush and Ophelia “Ofelia” Rivera, 56, in the 5500 block of Sumrold Road. Lozoya was nearly a mile from the property, according to a press release from the sheriff’s office. Rivera was over a mile away from the property, according to an arrest report.

Lozoya and Rivera refused to identify themselves upon being located, according to a criminal complaint. Authorities identified Lozoya from the license plate on the sedan allegedly used in the burglary. Deputy Jeanette Sandoval identified Rivera because she had prior contact with Rivera, according to the press release.

Emergency medical services treated Lozoya and Rivera for minor scrapes they sustained while allegedly fleeing, Martinez said.

The three suspects were interviewed at the sheriff’s office where, according to the criminal complaint, Kephart admitted to being on Jackson’s property but denied taking any items. Lozoya reportedly contradicted Kephart’s denial, saying all three suspects entered the garage and Kephart gathered items and moved them to the vehicle. According to the criminal complaint, Lozoya admitted that he drove the car used in the burglary.

All three suspects were taken to the Lea County Detention Center on charges of burglary, third-degree felonies, and larcenies, fourth-degree felonies. Lozoya and Rivera are also charged with misdemeanor resisting, evading or obstructing an officer and petty misdemeanor concealing identity.

Sara MacNeil can be reached at courts@hobbsnews.com .

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