ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
In recent weeks, Albuquerque residents have endured headline after headline of violence in the Duke City – from the fatal beatings of two homeless men to a shooting spree that killed one woman and injured three bystanders at a local business.
Yet Albuquerque is on track to suffer far fewer homicides this year than in previous years, according to police department data.
The recent high-profile acts of violence that have left five people dead within a span of four weeks have prompted some residents to take to social media, distressed about what might seem like unending bad news.
“Yet again, Albuquerque shows its true colors,” Facebook user Stephen Walton posted on the Journal page last week after the city’s most recent shooting death. “This place is getting completely overrun with scumbag trash!”
But police department officials say those deaths have been isolated and unrepresentative of recent citywide homicide trends.
APD spokeswoman Janet Blair said there’s no underlying factor behind each of the killings that could help to explain what could have prompted them.
So far this year, 15 people have been killed in homicides.
Since 2009, an average of 30 people have been killed in homicides in Albuquerque between January and the end of August of each year, according to APD data.
Last year, 24 people were killed in that time frame, and, in 2009, 39 people were killed in homicides by the end of August.
“Even though things have gotten crazy this past week, we are well below average for this time of year,” APD spokesman Tanner Tixier said in an email last Friday, hours after briefing news media about the shooting death of a man at a home in Southeast Albuquerque.
By the end of 2013, which also had several violent crimes and homicides that garnered national attention, the number of homicides in the city was the lowest since at least 1996.
In 1996, the city experienced an unusually high number of homicides – 70 – and since then that number fluctuated from the mid-30s to a high of 56 in 2009, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. (See chart.)
According to APD, there were 29 homicides last year.
On July 19, the unrecognizable bodies of two Navajo men were found in a vacant lot near Central and 60th. Three teens were later arrested and told police they kicked and beat the men to death, using their fists, feet, cinder blocks and other objects. The men were later identified as Allison Gorman and Kee Thompson of Church Rock.
The teens, Alex Rios, 18, Nathaniel Carrillo, 16, and Gilbert Tafoya, 15, have since pleaded not guilty to murder charges. Some elected officials have suggested building a memorial park at the lot where the two men were killed, and Mayor Richard Berry and Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly have since met to work toward preventing violence against Native Americans.
On Aug. 8, police said Marcos Delgado, in a “fit of jealous rage,” shot and killed his ex-girlfriend, Anna Vigil, on the day the two were supposed to register their young son for school. He shot her as she sat in a car outside a local business. His shots struck three other people in the business.
On Aug. 12, Delgado shot and killed himself after firing a high-powered rifle at police officers.
Two days later, the badly beaten body of 53-year-old Maryellen Gutierrez was found after another “gruesome” attack in a vacant lot, this one near Zuni and Utah SE.
In that case, police are looking for a man, 5 feet 4 inches tall, with short hair, who was wearing a red T-shirt and black jeans, and carrying a backpack.
And then last Friday, a homeowner shot and killed a home invader who, along with two alleged accomplices, entered a home in the 3400 block of Wellesley NE before dawn. The homeowner shot and killed the man, identified Friday as 18-year-old Edgardo Marquez-Ordonez, and wounded one of his peers, Luis Vargas-Rivera, 22.
Vargas-Rivera is recovering under guard at a local hospital before being booked into jail where he and the third alleged home invader, 20-year-old Miguel Marquez, will be held before facing multiple charges, including felony murder, aggravated burglary and aggravated assault.
The FBI defines homicide as the willful or non-negligent killing of one person by another. A felony murder case, which the suspects are facing, is brought against a group of defendants who conspire to commit a violent felony that results in a death.