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Murder Charges Avoided For New Mexico Deputy Who Shot His Partner in the Back

Tai Chan said he was in a drunken fight for his life. Prosecutors said he had no such injuries. 

By Will Huntsberry

A New Mexico deputy accused of fatally shooting his partner in the back in a hotel after a night of heavy drinking has avoided murder charges.

Tai Chan, 31, has already been tried for murder twice for the 2014 killing of his partner Jeremy Martin, who was 29 at the time. Both trials ended in a hung jury, after Chan claimed self-defense. On Thursday, a judge dismissed the possibility of future murder trials, which means Chan, pictured above after his arrest, can only be tried for manslaughter going forward.

Chan and Martin were on their way back from transporting a prisoner to Arizona on the day the fight broke out. They stopped for the night in Las Cruces, New Mexico en route to Santa Fe, where they worked, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Chan called a friend in Las Cruces to pick the two up for a night of drinking. The friend said the two had already been drinking when he got there, according to a criminal complaint obtained by the Journal. Chan and Martin then began arguing at the bar, to the point that a bartender intervened.

Once back at their hotel, the deputies’ argument erupted again.

During his last trial, Chan testified that the fight broke out because he’d made a joke suggesting that Martin had committed a double murder. "It wasn't a nice thing to say, but I wasn't saying it to imply he was responsible," Chan said, according to KVIA-TV in El Paso.

Chan said that after that, Martin slipped in an out of angry rages during the night. Eventually, Chan said, Martin attacked him and fired at him in the hotel bathroom. The duty weapon involved in the shooting was fired 10 times during the fight, but it is unclear who fired what shots.

Chan allegedly shot Martin in the back and arms five times, as Martin ran to the seventh floor elevator. Martin made it down the second floor lobby where he managed to tell a security guard he’d been shot.

Chan was on the phone with his girlfriend at the time of the shooting, according to court documents. She heard someone say, “Please don’t, please don’t,” just before shots rang out.

Cops found Chan in a hotel stairwell smelling of alcohol and slurring his words at around 12:30 am that night. “I shot the guy,” he said according to court documents. Chan said he knowingly shot the unarmed Martin, because he feared for his life.

Prosecutors said Chan had no injuries on his body to indicate that he was in a fight for his life. “They don't exist. His story is a lie," prosecutor Gerald Byers told jurors.

When officers arrived, Chan told them there was a bomb in the hotel. During testimony, he claimed he said it because they weren’t paying attention to him.  His next trial will be in August.

Martin left behind a pregnant wife and three children, according to the Journal. The two were high school sweethearts and had been married for 12 years at the time of the shooting.

“My husband was stolen. He doesn’t get to come and tell his side of the story,” said Sarah Martin after the second mistrial, according to the Journal. “He was taken from us, but his life matters. His life matters.”

[Photo: Dona Ana County Detention Center]

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