SANTA FE – A well-known American Indian artist said police in Santa Fe pulled a rifle on him after his dog pooped in his SUV and a woman mistook his cleanup efforts for a burglary.
“I tried to talk to her to explain that I was cleaning up dog” poop, Mateo Romero said. “But she got all hysterical and I just backed away. I couldn’t leave. It was crazy.”
But the woman, Maria Markus, 60, said she had no idea what Romero was up to at her house. “Who pulls their car into people’s driveways and cleans dog poop from their car?” she asked.
Markus, spouse of renowned photographer Kurt Markus, told the Journal there was a strange vehicle in the driveway of her Old Santa Fe Trail home near Museum Hill when she pulled up about noon Monday. She thought it might be the same burglars who came to the house two months ago and told her husband “we’ll be back” when he walked in on them, Markus said.
She said Romero never identified himself after she blocked in his SUV, and he tried to get her to roll down her car windows and tugged at the doors. She’d called police and they told her to lock her doors and not leave, Markus said.
Romero, a Pojoaque painter whose art was featured on the 2008 Santa Fe Indian Market poster, told The Associated Press that a Santa Fe officer pointed a weapon at him during the misunderstanding that landed him in handcuffs and in the back of a patrol car.
According to a police report, the officer pulled out the rifle, got Romero on the ground and detained him after Markus reported a burglary in progress.
Romero said he pulled into the private driveway after Han Solo, his Shih Tzu, relieved himself inside the SUV during a drive to his studio. Romero said he only wanted to clean the mess.
However, Romero said when Markus spotted him in her driveway, she boxed him in with her vehicle and called 911. Police said they searched Romero and released him after officers did not find any of the woman’s property on him or any sign of a break-in. “It appeared to be a misunderstanding,” the police report said. “Mr. Romero was understanding and polite.”
Markus said her “heart was pounding” as she waited for police to arrive. She noted that Amelia White Park is just down the street from her home and Romero could have gone there to clean up the dog mess. She said he used an old scarf that was thrown in the bushes. Romero was “rude and obnoxious” and never apologized, she said.
Romero is an award-winning painter whose work has been exhibited in Canada and throughout the United States. Efforts by the Journal to reach him for comment Wednesday after he was interviewed by the AP were unsuccessful.
Markus said she and her husband moved to Santa Fe from Montana in February and were ready to move back after their second unpleasant incident in a couple of months.
But they decided to stay because the responding police officers were so nice, she said.