Christopher Smelser

Christopher Smelser is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 40-year-old Antonio Valenzuela in February 2020. Body camera footage showed Smelser chasing Valenzuela and taking Valenzuela down after he ran during a traffic stop. Police pulled over a truck for expired insurance and registration. Officers found Valenzuela in the back seat and realized he was wanted on drug charges. Officers asked Valenzuela to get out of the truck and Valenzuela took off on foot. Officers, including Officer Smelser, chased him. They tried tazing Valenzuela, but when that didn’t work, they tackled him. In body cam video footage Smelser said he was going to choke Valenzuela out. Smelser used a vascular neck restraint. The choke hold technique is meant to render someone unconscious. It took the officers five minutes before they realized Valenzuela had died. The technique has since been banned by the Las Cruces Police Department. The medical examiner said asphyxial injuries and methamphetamine in his system led to Valenzuela's death.