This story is a staff report from The Paper.


Few Details Released 2 Weeks Later

Searchlight New Mexico is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that seeks to empower New Mexicans to demand honest and effective public policy.

Rodney Applewhite, 25, was driving through New Mexico late last week on his way to Arizona to spend Thanksgiving with his mother and other family members. 

Just outside of Los Lunas, on the last leg of a trip that started in South Bend, Indiana, a New Mexico State Police officer attempted to pull Applewhite over for what was described as a traffic stop. It was 8:32 a.m., a NMSP press release said. About 10 minutes later, two state troopers tried to arrest Applewhite. When an altercation occurred with the first officer, the second officer shot Applewhite, firing “at least one round,” the NMSP said. Applewhite, unarmed, died that day in the hospital. 

“I can’t sleep, I can’t eat. I’m heartbroken,” Applewhite’s mother, Katrina Cox, said by phone. “Why is it always shoot to kill? Because he’s tall and he’s a black man?”

Cox said she did not find out about her son’s death until nine hours after the Nov. 19 incident. At that point, Applewhite was overdue to arrive in Phoenix, and they were worried that he hadn’t answered their calls. When his aunt saw an online news report about a shooting on a New Mexico highway, she sent it to his sister and his mom. 

“My aunt thought it couldn’t be him, because the man was dead and we hadn’t heard from the police,” said Baysia Cox, Applewhite’s sister. “But I knew it was Rodney when I saw that it was his car.” 

At about 5 p.m. Applewhite’s mother called the NMSP but was told she needed to email them proof of her identification before they could speak with her. She did so, and then spoke to NMSP officer Charles Volk. 

“I said, ‘Is that my son?’” Katrina said. Volk “asked for my information, and then he said, ‘Yes. He’s dead. He died at the hospital.’  

“What am I supposed to do now without my son?” Katrina said. “What am I supposed to do?”

Hoping for more information, Katrina called again on the morning of Nov. 20 and was told that the police would follow up with the family. But since then, they’ve heard nothing. As of press time, state police had not even released Applewhite’s name.

“We just want the truth, and to know everything was done the correct way,” Baysia Cox said. “But we haven’t heard anything, and it just didn’t feel right to us.” 

According to the press statement, Applewhite was driving his grey Chrysler 200 on the Manzano Expressway, a barren two-lane road east of I-25, when the first officer tried to pull him over. He fled and the state police pursued him, using tire-deflation devices to try to stop him. About seven minutes later, a dispatcher described his whereabouts and the two officers involved in the shooting incident found him standing outside the car. When they tried to take him into custody, Applewhite resisted arrest and grabbed one officer’s gun, the report said. The second officer shot and killed him. In a Nov. 24 email to Searchlight, the NMSP said it had no new details to provide, adding that the incident was under investigation. As of a Nov. 30 email to The Paper., NMSP still had not released the identification of
the victim. [ ]