N.M. sgt. in critical condition; shooter sought

RUIDOSO DOWNS, N.M. — A Lincoln County sheriff’s deputy was in critical condition Thursday night after being shot by a fugitive as he tried to make a traffic stop in this southeastern New Mexico community.

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Sgt. Robert Shepperd was being treated at Thomason Hospital in El Paso, Texas. Shepperd has been with the sheriff’s office for about seven years, said state police Lt. Rick Anglada.

The shooting happened at about 1:30 p.m. after Shepperd spotted Kurt Sohrbeck in a pickup truck and tried to pull him over.

“The deputy pulled the truck over and that’s when he was wounded by the suspect,” Anglada said.

New Mexico authorities had been looking for Sohrbeck, 49, since Wednesday after getting word that he was in the state. Authorities said his mother lives in the Ruidoso area.

Sohrbeck is wanted by authorities in Washington, where he is accused of stealing several people’s identities, committing crimes and racking up thousands of dollars of debt for the ID theft victims.

“He was a prolific identity thief dating back to the early 1990s. He hasn’t used his real name since about 1992,” Washington State Patrol Detective Erik Noren said Thursday. “He assumes other people’s IDs and he’s very, very difficult to track.”

Anglada said Sohrbeck was last seen heading west on U.S. 70. He said it’s possible he was heading to Las Cruces or El Paso.

“He’s armed and dangerous. We’re urging people not to approach him,” Anglada said.

Sohrbeck has a shaved head and blue eyes. He weighs about 230 pounds and was driving a black 1997 GMC extended cab pickup truck with New Mexico license plate FZP799. Authorities initially believed that he was in a Chevy pickup with another license plate number.

Authorities said Sohrbeck may also have a pit bull with him.

Washington authorities have said that Sohrbeck spent time in prison in New York in the early 1970s before he allegedly went on to steal the identities of Edward Fleming, Steven Stewart and Bradley Allen.

Noren, who has been trying to track Sohrbeck for a couple of months, said he received more than 100 tips in recent days after The Bellingham Herald featured Sohrbeck in an article.

Noren said Sohrbeck has a criminal record in 11 states, including pending charges for assault and eluding police in Whatcom County, Washington.

“He’s very dangerous. He’s been on the run for a long time,” Noren said.

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