Long Arc of the Law

Santa Fe Sheriff’s deputy who killed man in Tesuque has history of violence, service in lengthy career

The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot a man in Tesuque last week has a complicated history that includes resigning from another department after a high-profile arrest on suspicion of domestic violence and saving a small child during a traffic stop.

SFR has learned that Deputy Patrick Ficke shot 45-year-old Edward Daniel Santana at least once, killing him, on July 7 outside a residence at #1 Entrada Capulin.

New Mexico State Police, the agency investigating the shooting, says Ficke—whom the department refused to identify—and another deputy went to the home to investigate what turned out to be a fatal stabbing. A State Police officer later joined them.

After they found the stabbing victim and moved her to safety, the cops encountered Santana. State Police says he was holding a “fence post,” ignored commands to drop it and walked “aggressively” toward the deputies.

One deputy fired an electronic stun gun at Santana, according to State Police. It’s not clear whether the prongs struck Santana or delivered their desired charge into his body.

Shortly after that, Ficke shot Santana, who died at the scene.

It was the fourth police shooting in Santa Fe over a two-week stretch. Three of them were fatal: two by the sheriff’s department and one by the Santa Fe Police Department

Multiple sources familiar with last week’s incident identified Ficke as the shooter. State Police would not answer questions about the shooting; the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office also refused to confirm that it was Ficke who killed Santana, and Sheriff Adan Mendoza’s department would not answer any questions about his employment, not even the date he was hired.

“I’m not going to respond to your questions today because I am doing other stuff,” sheriff’s spokesman Juan Rios tells SFR.

Ficke could not be reached for comment.

In an interview with the Santa Fe New Mexican, Santana’s family raised questions about the circumstances of the shooting. One family member who lived at the home on Entrada Capulin said he had sliced his own throat and was bleeding profusely before Ficke pulled the trigger.

Ficke’s past raises questions about the department’s screening process—and about whether the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board is performing its statutory duty to ensure cops who run afoul of the law or internal policies at one agency don’t wind up working at another.

The 2013 incident

Ficke started his law enforcement career at the Albuquerque Police Department in 2003. He held various positions, including field training officer, supervisor over the crisis negotiation and crisis intervention teams and public information officer.

In that latter post, Ficke was the highly visible face of the department, frequently appearing on television and in newspaper stories during a time when APD was regularly in the news for officer misconduct and unconstitutional shootings.

Ficke eventually rose to the rank of sergeant and received a plum assignment—in one of APD’s most notorious, troubled sections, the Special Investigations Division (SID).

When the US Justice Department investigated APD in 2012 and 2013, ultimately determining that New Mexico’s largest cop shop had a pattern and practice of excessive force and civil rights violations, federal authorities singled out several shootings by SID officers. The Justice Department even disbanded one of SID’s prized units, the Repeat Offender Project.

Ficke was in charge of SID’s Narcotics Unit. He was known in the department as an aggressive risk-taker.

On Feb. 10, 2013, a Sunday, Ficke and a handful of fellow cops, including other SID supervisors, were drinking at the Marble Brewery in Downtown Albuquerque. (APD never released the results of an Internal Affairs investigation into the other officers’ actions, so it is not clear whether any of them were on duty or on call at the time.)

Ficke made his way home to Rio Rancho, though it is not clear how, and was “very intoxicated” when he arrived, his then-wife, who also was an APD detective, later told investigators. The couple began to argue when Ficke said he’d been called back on-duty.

His wife told him he couldn’t go to work drunk.

Further, she didn’t buy his story. Instead, she believed he may have wanted to meet a well-known Albuquerque television reporter, with whom he was having an extramarital affair.

The pair continued to argue, and Ficke struck his wife several times in the nose with his phone, according to a police report. Ficke punched her in the temple and “squeezed her neck so hard that she felt pain going down her left shoulder.”

Ficke’s wife pleaded with him to let her take the couple’s small children, who had witnessed the argument and beating, and go to her mother’s house, but he refused to let her leave, according to the report. She put the children to bed and pretended to sleep herself. Ficke then passed out; she took the children, left and called police.

For nearly 12 hours, Ficke was a fugitive. With the help of then-APD Chief Ray Schultz, Ficke was allowed to turn himself in to Rio Rancho police around noon the day after the alleged beating. That agency charged him with three felonies—two counts of child abuse and one count of false imprisonment—and battery on a household member, a misdemeanor.

He spent about two hours in jail and was released on a $20,000 cash bond, then went to APD headquarters and resigned instead of facing an Internal Affairs investigation.

The criminal case languished for three years and was eventually dismissed when Ficke’s lawyer convinced a judge his speedy trial rights had been violated. His wife’s injuries persisted, too: She suffered facet syndrome, cervicalgia, a collapsed nasal cavity, migraine headaches and more.

Next stops for Ficke

In 2013, Ficke took a job with the state Department of Workforce Solutions and left the agency in 2016. That’s when he started as a part-time mental health counselor and human resources manager with Healthy Families of Albuquerque.

His next counseling job, again part-time, was at Family Choices, where he began work in 2017. Meanwhile, the state Department of Health hired him in 2016 as an investigator for its Incident Management Bureau.

Ficke landed in the news again in 2018, when he sued the Health Department. The former cop had been investigating allegations of mistreatment at an Albuquerque disability care center linked to an acquaintance of then-Gov. Susana Martinez.

The lawsuit alleged Ficke was demoted for pursuing his investigation.

He received a settlement and returned to law enforcement, when the Bosque Farms Police Department—home, through the years, to numerous former APD officers—hired him in 2018.

By 2020, Ficke had been promoted to lieutenant. That fall, he was named one of five finalists for the vacant chief’s position in Bosque Farms, but he didn’t get the job.

Some time after that, Ficke put on the badge for Mendoza’s sheriff’s department in Santa Fe.

It is not clear whether Schultz, the former APD chief, sent a case on Ficke to the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board for review after Ficke’s arrest in 2013—an action state law would have required Schultz to take.

The board, chaired by the state attorney general, controls all law enforcement certifications in New Mexico. Those certifications are required to work as a cop in the state. The board reviews allegations of misconduct and, if members find any, they can take a variety of actions against a certification, up to revocation.

Also not clear: whether Mendoza’s department considered Ficke’s past when he was hired.

Since joining the department, Ficke has once again made headlines.

Last month, the department posted dashcam video on its Facebook page from June 5 showing Ficke conducting a traffic stop on Interstate 25. The deputy believed he’d observed erratic driving.

The driver stopped, then jumped out of the vehicle. Ficke ran to the vehicle and saw a 1-year-old child choking on a Cheeto. He performed an infant-tailored version of the Heimlich maneuver and dislodged the chip.

The video made the rounds on local television, then spread around the country on various broadcasts and websites.

Some video released in deputy shootings—is there more?

The sheriff’s department has not said whether there is video—either from Ficke’s body-worn camera or otherwise—showing his July 7 fatal shooting of Santana.

Neither has State Police, which investigates all shootings by city and county cops in Santa Fe.

According to that agency, deputies were sent to the Tesuque residence around 8 am on July 7 to investigate a stabbing. They found 67-year-old Delia Cervantes lying on a bench outside and moved her to safety.

According to the New Mexican, Cervantes was Santana’s mother. She later died at an area hospital.

Deputies then confronted Santana who, according to State Police, was standing on the patio, holding a “fence post,” which the agency did not describe in the bare-bones news release it issued about the shooting on July 9. Santana then walked toward the deputies, ignoring commands to drop the object.

That’s when one deputy fired a Taser at Santana, according to State Police. Then, SFR’s sources say, Ficke shot him.

According to State Police, the deputies tried to help Santana, but he died at the scene.

Santana’s family believes he may not have been capable of assaulting the cops because he was bleeding from the neck, according to the New Mexican. The family questions the narrative pushed by State Police about what led up to the shooting.

The agency’s narratives don’t always hold up.

The sheriff’s department on Thursday released video to SFR showing deputies shoot and kill 32-year-old Nathan Roybal on Siler Road after a traffic stop on June 23.

State Police did not identify the deputies at the scene of the Siler Road shooting until SFR asked questions about the Tesuque shooting on Thursday. Officer Ray Wilson, a spokesman for the agency, issued a news release shortly before 1 pm saying deputies Leonardo Guzman and Jacob Martinez and Corporal Chris Zook were present.

Wilson’s release does not say which of the three fired at Roybal.

While he was an officer with the Santa Fe Police Department, Guzman shot and killed 29-year-old Andrew Lucero after a vehicle chase that ended in Eldorado. The case raised questions about potential violations of SFPD policy, though it is unclear whether Guzman was disciplined because the department refuses to release information about its internal punishment system. Guzman was cleared of criminal wrongdoing in the shooting.

The video released by the sheriff’s department of the July 7 shooting contradicts the initial version of events State Police put forward; the agency partially corrected its characterization in Thursday’s release.

According to the first version from State Police, deputies stopped a stolen truck driven by a man later identified as Roybal shortly before midnight. State Police says the man got out of the truck and “pointed a black handgun” at deputies, who then fired.

The video shows the stop and what followed.

In the video, the truck’s driver is seen waving his arm outside the driver’s window, holding an object that appears to be a gun. The driver positions the object in the direction of the deputies and appears to fire one shot.

The deputies respond with a barrage of bullets, striking the truck multiple times. The driver then exits, drops the object and runs away from the deputies.

As he flees, deputies fire multiple shots at the man, striking him at least once. The man then falls to the ground.

According to State Police, he died at the scene.

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