Rodney Applewhite 25, was driving through New Mexico last week on his way to Arizona to spend Thanksgiving with his mother and other family members. It was 8:32 a.m New Mexico State Police officer attempted to pull Applewhite over for what was described as a traffic stop.
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.
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.
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.
With deep worry, 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.
“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?”
At the time, he was in the National Guard and attending college at Indiana University South Bend.
“He knew he was on probation and just freaked out. You know, [with] police behind you. Anyone would freak out,” his mother said, referring to the disproportionate numbers of Black men who have been killed by police officers.
Since January of this year, Applewhite had been working two jobs — at a factory in Elkhart, Indiana, as well as at a Mexican restaurant, Hacienda, in Elkhart.
“He was just trying to figure out how he could change his life so he wouldn’t end up back in jail,” said Rhamon Mallard, a close friend of Applewhite’s.
“The thing that I really didn’t like about the police report,” Mallard added, “is that they didn’t want to put his name out there. But they did say that he was a criminal.”
Applewhite is the second Black American to be fatally shot by police in New Mexico in the past five years. The first, 40-year-old John Bailon, was also killed in Los Lunas — shot 12 times by Valencia County deputies in January 2018. Bailon’s estate brought a wrongful death suit against the county, which recently settled the case, said Philip Davis, a plaintiffs’ attorney in the proceeding.