VIDEO: Judge exonerates former New Mexico police officer accused of strangling Hispanic man in the middle of a traffic stop

Former Las Cruces police officer Christopher Smelser, 29, was facing charges for the death of Antonio Valenzuela, 40, in February 2020.

Photo: Las Cruces Police Department/Courtesy

LOS ANGELES – A judge in New Mexico dismissed second-degree murder charge made against a former Las Cruces police officer for cause the death of a Latino by using the strangulation technique during a traffic stop in 2020, local media reported today.

Former Las Cruces police officer Christopher Smelser, 29, faced the accusation for the death of Antonio Valenzuela40 years old, which occurred in February 2020.

The case, which drew attention for two years, ended abruptly on Thursday when Judge Douglas Driggers dismissed the charge without letting a jury decidethe Las Cruces Sun-News reported.

Smelser and his partner Andrew Tuton of the Las Cruces Police Department, chased Valenzuela after he fled from a traffic stop on foot.

Eventually the two policemen caught up with Valenzuela and, after a brief altercation, Smelser submitted Valenzuela using a controversial technique called vascular neck restraint..

Valenzuela died an hour later. The autopsy determined that the Hispanic died of suffocation and that a high concentration of methamphetamine contributed to his death.

Smelser’s lawyers, who was fired from the Police 2020argued that the Prosecutor’s Office could not prove that Smelser was aware that his actions could cause death or great damage to Valenzuela.

Judge Driggers agreed with the defense’s arguments and dismissed the charge against Smelser.

In August 2020 the city of Las Cruces accepted pay $6.5 million to Valenzuela’s family.