State of New Mexico
Office of the Third Judicial District Attorney
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 5, 2020 | Las Cruces, NM— Las Cruces | District Attorney Mark D’Antonio announced today that charges will be filed in the death of Antonio Valenzuela. A charge of Involuntary Manslaughter (a fourth-degree felony) will be filed against Las Cruces Police Officer Christopher Smelser. In arresting Valenzuela, officer Smelser utilized a vascular neck restraint technique which resulted in the death of Mr. Valenzuela.
The incident occurred February 29, 2020 after a traffic stop near the intersection of Alameda Blvd. and Three Crosses Ave. During the traffic stop, police identified Antonio Valenzuela of Las Cruces had an open warrant for a parole violation. Valenzuela fled on foot, as police chased Valenzuela, officers deployed their Taser twice without affecting Valenzuela. Valenzuela was continually struggling to get away, once on the ground, during this struggle, Officer Smelser applied a vascular neck restraint technique to gain control. It is police policy that after any use of force, fire and ambulance are called upon to provide medical care, if necessary. Mr. Valenzuela was observed as non-responsive, EMS technicians attempted life-saving measures which were not successful.
This incident was investigated by the Doña Ana County Officer Involved Incident Task Force. At the request of the Las Cruces Police Department, The New Mexico State Police, a member of that task force, is the lead investigating agency.