City council meetings in Las Cruces are never jovial affairs, but a meeting following the death of a Las Cruces Police Department officer left a solemn atmosphere over the mundane business scheduled for presentation.
Mayor Eric Enriquez, a former firefighter, opened the meeting with a moment of silence for Jonah Hernandez, 35, after police said he was killed on Feb. 11.
“We had a very tragic and unfortunate incident yesterday,” Enriquez said. “One that’s very close to home. We’re all very heavy-hearted today for our fallen officer, Jonah Hernandez.”
Enriquez was joined by the six members of the Las Cruces council, many of whom posted acknowledgments on social media.
“I am holding Officer Hernandez’s family, his friends, and LCPD siblings in my thoughts and prayers. My heart is absolutely broken for this tragic loss. My heart goes out to the witness and the family of the suspect. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4,” wrote District 4 Councilor and Mayor Pro Tem Johana Bencomo in a social media post.
Hernandez is the first LCPD officer slain in the line of duty. According to a news release, police said he was responding to a trespassing call near the 300 block of Valley Drive when a 29-year-old man stabbed him. The man was then fatally shot by a witness, police said.
Hernadez’s death – and the many social and political ley lines it touches – will undoubtedly be major topics of conversation in the coming weeks. But Monday was a day for acknowledgments.
In online comment sections underneath news articles and news releases, community members from across Las Cruces and El Paso expressed sorrow for Hernandez’s death. LCPD’s post confirming the death was shared over 3,000 times on Facebook.
Veronica De La O, an LCPD detective, organized a GoFundMe page to support Hernandez' family.
"In honor of the life and ultimate sacrifice of LCPD Officer Jonah Hernandez, the Las Cruces Police Officers Association grieves with the wife, children and family of Officer Hernandez," De La O wrote. "He paid the ultimate sacrifice and his memory will live on through his children, family and his brothers and sisters in blue. Rest easy, L989"
The online fundraiser had raised about $5,200 at the time of this article's publication. Many of the donors were Hernandez's colleagues at LCPD.
“This breaks my heart,” wrote Ammu Devasthali, chair of the New Mexico State University Board of Regents. “Heartfelt condolences to the family of Officer Hernandez. Sending prayers.”
Many of the posts acknowledged Hernandez’s family and the impact his death will have on them. According to LCPD, Hernandez was a father of two children, ages 2 and 10. He was also married and lived in El Paso, Texas.
“Condolences to the Las Cruces PD and Officer J. Hernandez’ family,” said Joe Molinar, a City of El Paso representative.
New Mexico’s federal delegation also expressed sorrow online.
“Saddened to hear of the loss of Officer Jonah Hernandez, a dedicated public servant who was killed in the line of duty,” Sen. Ben Ray Luján said on X, formerly Twitter. “My thoughts are with his family, friends, and the Las Cruces Police Department community during this difficult time.”
“My thoughts are with the family, friends, and colleagues of Officer Jonah Hernandez who lost his life yesterday in the line of duty. We will not forget his sacrifice in service to his community,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich.
“I’m saddened by the loss of Officer Jonah Hernandez, killed yesterday in the line of duty. His bravery and commitment to keeping Las Cruces safe will not be forgotten. My heart goes out to his family and the LCPD,” wrote former Las Cruces city councilor, U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez.
The news also came at the tail end of a busy session in the New Mexico Legislature. However, some legislators still took the time to acknowledge the loss.
“The tragic loss of a dedicated police officer in Las Cruces has rocked my community,” said state Sen. Bill Soules. “Officer Jonah Hernandez was killed in the line of duty. He will be missed, and our thoughts are with his family. Time will help heal the pain but the loss will linger for a long time.”
“I’m heartbroken about the death of Las Cruces Police Officer Jonah Hernandez, who was killed in the line of duty last night. All of Las Cruces and all of New Mexico joins Officer Hernandez’s family, friends and colleagues in grieving this tragic loss,” said state Rep. Nathan Small.
As of this article’s publication, little is known about the course of events that led to Hernandez’s death. A news conference is scheduled for Tuesday at 11 a.m. where police chief Jeremy Story is expected to share more info about the incident.