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Pueblo of Santa Clara New Mexico

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The family of Patricia Ulibarri of El Rancho, a northern New Mexico woman killed two years ago in a traffic accident that involved an alleged drunk driver, is suing the federal government. The 44-year-old mother of two died when the vehicle she was riding in collided head-on with a car driven by Jeremy Louis Tapia, 19, of Pojoaque. At the time, Tapia was being chased by Santa Clara Pueblo tribal officer Raymond Coriz Jr. Speeds during the chase reached 100 miles an hour, according to authorities. After the accident, Tapia's blood-alcohol level tested at 0.18, more than twice the legal limit for intoxication in New Mexico. Tapia has since pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. The lawsuit alleges Coriz was negligent, reckless and careless in his pursuit of Tapia. The lawsuit states the federal government should be liable since it provides funding to the Santa Clara police department for vehicles and to train officers. Many law enforcement agencies in New Mexico have policies that prohibit the pursuit of people with minor traffic violations if the risk outweighs the importance of making an arrest. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court after the Department of the Interior denied liability. The federal government has 60 days to respond.

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