A Durango man who allegedly escaped from the La Plata County Jail and shot a Farmington Police Department officer in the arm while on the run has pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Elias Buck, 23, faces up to 10 years in prison after signing a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico on Thursday.
A sentencing date has not yet been set, said Scott Howell, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque.
According to the plea agreement, Buck possessed a semi-automatic pistol Jan. 7 – the same day Officer Joseph Barreto was shot in the arm – after having been previously convicted of felonies, including trespassing of a dwelling and possession of a dangerous drug for sale.
Prosecutors in San Juan County, New Mexico, had previously charged Buck with aggravated battery upon a peace officer with a deadly weapon for the shooting, but that charge was dismissed to allow the federal case to be adjudicated. Prosecutors in San Juan County retain the right to refile charges for shooting a peace officer.
“When the federal government is done prosecuting him, we will then refile our charges that don’t involve the firearm, and he will be prosecuted in state court,” said Dustin O’Brien, chief deputy district attorney with New Mexico’s 11th Judicial District, in a previous interview.
It is possible Colorado prosecutors could file charges against Buck for escaping from the jail, but those would likely take a back seat to the San Juan County charges.
Buck is suspected of escaping Dec. 27 from the La Plata County Jail, where he was being held on suspicion of motor vehicle theft.
While on the run, Buck allegedly shot Barreto in the right arm as the officer approached Buck and his girlfriend, Victoria “Rossi” Hernandez, while investigating a possible drunken driving incident. The officer returned fire but didn’t hit Buck or Hernandez.
The shooting set off an intense search for Buck, who was eventually captured seven days later at a QuikTrip Convenience Store in Phoenix, where he was taken into custody.