FBI discusses carjackings following deadly ambush of NMSP officer

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque’s Special Agent in Charge of the FBI is looking to send a strong message with the federal case of a man accused of carjacking and killing New Mexico State Police Officer Justin Hare.

March 17, 2024, marked the end of a multi-day manhunt for Jaremy Smith. Lapel video from Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputies in Albuquerque showed law enforcement jumping walls in backyards, and warning residents, “Go inside!”

Body camera video shows pursuit, capture of man accused of killing NMSP officer

“He’s running, he’s running! Get over here, bro!” A deputy said after he spotted Smith. “He’s running westbound; he’s running westbound!

As deputies closed in on an armed Smith, one of them warned, “You’re gonna get shot!” After the sound of gunfire, a radio call is heard, “Shots fired, shots fired!”

Smith was shot near his arm and was taken to the hospital to be treated. Since he has been released and is now back in the custody of law enforcement, federal authorities are throwing the book at him. “We will pursue and throw everything we possibly can at them from the local, state, and federal because we need to,” Raul Bujanda, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Albuquerque field office, told KRQE News 13. “These individuals don’t have that privilege, or shouldn’t have that privilege of breathing the same free air that me and you do on a daily basis,” Bujanda continued.

Hare was killed after he stopped to help Smith, 33, of South Carolina, with a flat tire on I-40 near Tucumcari on March 15. According to court documents and New Mexico State Police, Hare parked behind a white BMW and Smith approached the officer’s passenger side window. The two had a brief conversation about the flat tire before Smith shot at the officer.

New Mexico State Police said Smith walked over to the driver’s side and shot Hare again before he got into the officer’s vehicle. Smith then pushed Hare into the passenger seat and drove away in the officer’s patrol car.

The white BMW belonged to South Carolina paramedic Phonesia Machado-Fore, whom Smith is also accused of killing, according to court documents.

SAC Bujanda explained both victims were senselessly killed, seemingly at random, for their cars. “Carjacking is having the intent to kill or cause serious bodily harm to the actual owner of the vehicle in their presence,” Bujanda explained.

When a car is simply stolen, Bujanda said the owner is usually not present, and it’s usually charged as a state crime. “When we’re talking about carjacking, the owner is present,” he added. “They’re usually in their vehicle, and they’re taken forcefully out of their vehicle. And their vehicle is stolen. That is carjacking.”

Bujanda explained that carjacking is a federal crime, which carries a penalty of 15 years to life in prison. “It’s one of those that I want to put some awareness out there,” he said. “When you look at carjacking in itself, it’s been such a violent act that’s resulted in many instances – death. I want to make sure that we were talking to people and letting them know this is something that’s out there.”

Carjackings reported in New Mexico so far this year

While he can’t point to an increase in the numbers, Bujanda said the FBI is investigating at least 30 carjacking cases that took place in New Mexico this year. Bujanda wants drivers to be aware.

“To me, that’s way too many,” said Bujanda. “And I don’t want to see what those trends kind of go, because if that’s the case, we’re going to be over 100 for the year. That is way too many, on some, on a crime that usually ends very violently, and people get hurt.”

Carjackers often look for an easy target, Bujanda explained—a distracted driver on their phone, or they may come up with a ruse asking for help. “I would say just lock them [your doors] as soon as you’re in the vehicle, as soon as you start going, to lock your doors, just to make sure you’re safe,” said Bujanda. “Be cautious of your surroundings.”

Smith’s victims made a career out of helping people. And for his crimes, Smith could face the death penalty.

Smith faces at least six counts in Albuquerque’s federal court for the death of Hare, plus another 17 charges filed by the Marion County Sheriff in South Carolina for the death of Machado-Fore. Smith pleaded not guilty in federal court on Thursday. He will remain in custody until trial.

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