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Man who fatally stabbed New Mexico officer had long criminal record, police say

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A man who fatally stabbed a police officer in southern New Mexico over the weekend had a long criminal record, authorities said Tuesday.

The death of Las Cruces patrol Officer Jonah Hernandez marked the first on-duty death among officers in the 96-year-old history of the city's police department, officials said.

“We will mourn the loss of our brother forever,” Las Cruces police Chief Jeremy Story said at a Tuesday news conference.

Authorities initially received a call Sunday afternoon that Armando Silva, 29, was trespassing on private property at a Las Cruces business, Story said.

Hernandez was dispatched without any backup after the call from the property owner. Story said Silva attacked Hernandez with a large kitchen knife. A witness retrieved a gun from his car and fatally shot Silva before calling on the officer's radio for help, Story said.

Hernandez, 35, suffered a least one stab wound and died at a local hospital.

Story said Silva had a long history of violent crime and mental illness.

“He was convicted of serious violent crimes and spent some time in prison," Story said. "He violated his probation and parole multiple times.”

Court records show Silva was sentenced in 2017 to three years in prison after pleading guilty in a domestic violence case and, in 2019, he cut off his GPS bracelet and was found to be in possession of drugs.

A public safety assessment filed in early 2023 showed Silva had both prior misdemeanor and felony convictions and had failed to appear in court previously.

Story declined to identify the witness but said police aren't recommending any charges against him. Prosecutors ultimately make that determination.

Hernandez was a former resident of El Paso, Texas, who had served with Las Cruces Police Department for two years. He is survived by his wife and two sons, ages 2 and 10, plus his parents and two siblings, authorities said.

Law enforcement agencies from across New Mexico helped escort Hernandez’s body to El Paso on Monday night. Funeral services were pending.

Las Cruces is one of New Mexico's largest cities and was founded in 1928. It's located about 225 miles (360 kilometers) south of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and some 45 miles (75 kilometers) northwest of El Paso.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement Monday that she was “ horrified to hear of the murder of a young officer in Las Cruces.”

“This loss is felt acutely by every first responder and their families,” she said.

On Tuesday, Lujan Grisham ordered all state flags be lowered to half-staff from Wednesday through sundown of Feb. 19 in honor of Hernandez.