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Gunplay didn’t keep accused robber in jail

Anthony S. Romero

Anthony Seferino Romero, 25, is the poster boy for a defendant police have in mind when they criticize the Bernalillo County District Court’s pretrial release program – which they sometimes describe as “catch and release.”

Bottom line: After being released to a third party and ordered to wear an ankle bracelet – after being accused of pointing a gun at three different individuals, Romero absconded and went on a one-man armed robbery spree on Albuquerque’s West Side.

According to a January indictment, Romero was charged with breaking into cars outside businesses on San Mateo NE on the night of Dec. 15, 2016.

Romero had broken into two vehicles, but when he broke into a third, he was confronted by a local business owner. Romero pointed a pistol in the man’s face before running away.

Police arrived on the scene.

Romero had broken into another car down the street, where he was found by two men, including the car’s owner.

He pointed his pistol at them, too, before running away. After a foot chase, police arrested him.

Romero was charged with two counts of aggravated burglary, three counts of aggravated assault, with firearm enhancement on all five counts. There were lesser charges of possession of burglary tools, evading or obstructing an officer and criminal damage to property under $1,000.

All three men who had the pistol pointed at them have agreed to testify, and one testified in front of the grand jury that indicted Romero.

Romero was released in January by District Judge Jacqueline Flores to a third party and intensive supervision by the court’s pretrial services unit, which included a GPS ankle monitor. No bond was required. That was in line with the report and recommendation from the court’s pretrial services unit report using the matrix the court uses to help judges decide what conditions of release are appropriate in criminal cases – or whether release is even appropriate.

Despite the charges that Romero used a firearm during his crimes, his prior criminal history consisted of one larceny charge giving him a low enough score on the matrix to qualify for release.

Off the rails

In early May, Romero didn’t show up for court, didn’t report to pretrial services and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

On May 9, Romero allegedly went on an armed robbery spree.

According to court records, he first held up two men at the Bank of America ATM near Corrales Road NW at gun point, making off with $120.

A few minutes later, Romero walked into an Albertsons on Coors NW and forced two cashiers at gunpoint to give him more than $1,647 from their registers.

He fled in his vehicle as APD officers responded but managed to get away.

Fifteen minutes later, according to police accounts, he pulled into the drive-up window at Dion’s on Montano and Coors NW.

He demanded money, the employee at the window fled and Romero fired his weapon twice before jumping through the window and taking $275 from the cash drawer.

Twenty minutes later, police caught up to Romero at the Smith’s grocery store on Golf Course Road NW, which he had allegedly robbed of $400 and cigarettes.

He sped away again, leading police on a dangerous chase that officers backed off from.

Later that night, police identified his vehicle from surveillance video and went to his home. They arrested Romero after a foot chase.

He was indicted on five counts of armed robbery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, criminal damage to property (all with fire enhancement penalties) and receiving or transferring a stolen motor vehicle.

The pretrial services report gave the judge the choice between no bond or release under supervision.

Judge Flores, who presided over his second felony arraignment, ordered Romero held without bond.

Romero has pleaded not guilty to the charges.