Records show slain Santa Fe man feared son, seized his guns months before shooting

May 28—Records show a Santa Fe man who was shot and killed Saturday believed his son — the suspect in his death — had a mental illness and might try to kill him.

In the last year, 54-year-old James Dukette had taken and hidden his son's firearms amid escalating fears Zachary Dukette would shoot him, according to witness statements to police and other court records filed in recent months.

Zachary Dukette, 34, who faces counts of first-degree murder and tampering with evidence, told police he had shot his father, investigators wrote in a statement of probable cause, but called himself the victim. He said his father had attempted to strangle him before he fired a gun Saturday afternoon.

The incident marks the first death ruled a homicide in Santa Fe so far in 2024, police data shows.

The shooting occurred at a property owned by James Dukette's mother near the intersection of Agua Fría Street and Morning Drive on the city's southwestern side, where Zachary Dukette was living in a trailer, Santa Fe police said in the statement of probable cause, filed Tuesday in Santa Fe County Magistrate Court.

Police arrived at the property shortly before 3 p.m. Saturday in response to a call reporting gunshots, and an officer found James Dukette — who managed a nearby self-storage business — face down on the ground and unresponsive. He had two gunshot wounds on his torso, the statement says.

Investigators collected three bullet casings from the ground near James Dukette, and a handgun was found in Zachary Dukette's car, police wrote in the statement.

Zachary Dukette, who was still at the scene, was arrested after twice telling officers, "I shot," the statement says. During an interview with investigators Saturday evening, he "stated he was a victim, and he was being strangled by James."

A woman who lives in another home on the property told police she saw James Dukette's body on the ground when she returned home from work and became "fearful," police wrote. Zachary Dukette then approached her and told her he had shot his father after James had tried to strangle him, she said. Because the woman did not speak English, police wrote, she had called her father, who translated her conversation with Zachary Dukette.

The woman described his demeanor as "tranquilo," or calm, during their conversation, police wrote.

James Dukette's wife told investigators her husband had taken her stepson's guns and was storing them away from him. Her husband gave Zachary Dukette $1,500 for the firearms, she said, adding she believed he had used the money to buy another gun.

James Dukette raised similar concerns in a domestic violence petition filed in state District Court in October 2023.

He wrote in the petition seeking a protective order against his son that the younger man had locked two assault rifles in a storage locker on the property. He removed them and "secured them somewhere else in a safe place," James Dukette wrote.

"I am also asking that a red flag rule prevent him (temporarily) from purchasing firearms," James Dukette wrote. "Zack has not made any direct threats toward me with the proposed use of firearms, but he has talked to his mom about shooting me."

James Dukette wrote he believed his son had undiagnosed schizophrenia and refused to seek help.

"I have been afraid because he now has been seen at the gun shop ... to purchase new guns," the father added.

A judge granted a temporary protective order against Zachary Dukette, but the case was dismissed the next month after James Dukette did not appear at a court hearing, a dismissal order states.

A spokesman for the First Judicial District Attorney's Office wrote in an email Tuesday the office's records do not indicate James Dukette sought the assistance of law enforcement to file a petition asking a judge to issue an extreme risk firearm protection order for his son, which under state law would require relinquishment of all firearms.

Santa Fe police Capt. Aaron Ortiz said he could not access the department's records Tuesday to answer whether James Dukette ever requested help from the department in petitioning for such an order.

Court records show Zachary Dukette was charged in September with assaulting a household member after he was accused of swinging at his father during an argument.

Following the incident, the father and son both filed for protective orders against each other.

The petitions were dismissed after both men failed to appear in court. Prosecutors also dismissed the criminal case against Zachary Dukette in November because of lack of cooperation from his father, records show.

An arraignment for the charges against Zachary Dukette is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.