Screams of terror awakened several Albuquerque homeless people early Monday as a dark truck smashed through a makeshift campsite near a Downtown shelter, leaving one dead and three injured.
Police said it appeared a man intentionally drove over the sleeping campers at 2:20 a.m. on Iron between First and Second streets near the Albuquerque Rescue Mission. The vehicle fled after the crash and police were searching for the driver Monday.
“He went for targets on the ground,” Lee Galvez, a 39-year-old homeless man who was sleeping on the south side of the Albuquerque Rescue Mission, said in an interview later Monday. “People screamed. You could hear the fear.”
Albuquerque Police Department officer Fred Duran said it appeared there were two men in a faded black truck that has front-end damage. He said the truck’s license plate may start with GJ or GZ and end in 278.
“Officers observed evidence that would suggest this was not an accident and could have possibly been more malicious,” officer Tanner Tixier said in a statement.
Police didn’t identify the person who was killed or any of those injured. Officers said the injured are expected to survive.
Debris at the site, including a crushed bicycle, could be seen later Monday.
Galvez said the truck was headed south on the sidewalk on Second Street when the driver turned east on Iron and drove into the group of people sleeping on the sidewalk. Galvez said a woman who was struck appeared to die immediately after the crash.
“I ran over after it was all over and she was very much in trouble. There was no helping her,” he said. “It was traumatizing, seeing an innocent lady go through that.”
Galvez said there weren’t more injuries because people were able to dart out of the truck’s path.
Rene Palacios, assistant executive director of Albuquerque Rescue Mission, said homeless people often camp on the streets surrounding the shelter and then eat breakfast there early in the morning. At this time of year, the shelter offers fewer than 10 beds.
“They feel safer staying here, next to the mission,” Palacios said. “There’s quite a few people who (sleep around the shelter). There’s not enough shelter beds for them all.”
Galvez said the female victim was frequently seen reading books around the Downtown area.
“I’m homeless because I made bad choices,” he said. “A woman like that shouldn’t be out here.”