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FBI: Alleged robber fired at police before officer killed him

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Before an alleged robber was shot and killed by a police officer Saturday, the man fired a gun at police while driving a stolen van during a vehicle chase, a special agent with the FBI said in federal court Tuesday.

The agent made no mention of a gun being found on or near Richard Rivera, 47, after he was shot and killed by police in a grocery store parking lot at Yale and Coal SE. The agent said that a magazine was found outside the van and that authorities believed they would find a pistol and another magazine when Albuquerque police on Tuesday executed a search warrant on the vehicle Rivera was driving moments before he was shot and killed.

Special Agent Jordan Spaeth’s account of the shooting was a more detailed description of Albuquerque police’s second fatal shooting of 2018. The testimony was made during a preliminary hearing for Jennifer Rael, 39, who was arrested in the van Rivera was driving when he reportedly shot at officers.

Albuquerque Police Department spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said police plan to hold a news conference and release video of the shooting at a later date. Police have not released the name of the officer or officers involved in the shooting.

Rivera and Rael had been on an eight-day crime spree in which the pair were allegedly involved in robberies at two banks, a gas station and a cellphone store, according to court testimony. The FBI is involved in the case because they investigated bank robberies believed to have been committed by the two.

After a robbery at a Verizon store in Northeast Albuquerque, the pair were chased by Albuquerque police Saturday afternoon. Spaeth said in court Tuesday that at some point during the chase Rivera, the driver, shot at Albuquerque police officers.

Maureen Trujillo was watering plants at a home on Stanford SE when she saw the van and officers in a chase.

“I see this white van careening down Stanford. It jumped the curb, kind of went airborne a little, and landed in the yard two doors down,” she said. “Then four shots rang out.”

She said she heard the gunshots, and the van took off again.

Not long after that, officers deliberately crashed into the van near the Smith’s grocery store, Spaeth said in court. Rivera then got out of the van and started running from officers.

“He reportedly reached for his waistband, at which time police officers shot and killed him,” the agent said in court.

A citizen’s video posted online appears to show Rivera sprinting toward the entrance to the grocery store when police shot at him about six times.

He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Rael was taken into custody in the van Rivera was driving. She had rented it on June 8 from U-Haul and never returned it.

Rael has been charged with aiding and abetting armed bank robbery and using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. U.S. Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa on Tuesday found there was probable cause that Rael committed the crimes and ordered that she remain in custody until her trial.

Mallory Gagen, Rael’s attorney, asked that she instead await trial at a halfway house. She said Rael has little criminal history – just a misdemeanor domestic violence arrest – and no convictions. She also pointed out that Rael has a daughter and mother who live in Albuquerque and that when trying to regain custody of her daughter from the state Children, Youth and Families Department, Rael was successful at complying with the agency’s terms.

“She is capable of doing what she is told when monitored by authorities,” Gagen said.

Rael and Rivera had known each other for about six weeks when they launched into their crime spree, police say. Rael told FBI agents Rivera moved in with her in mid-May and she started using meth twice daily.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Burkhead argued that although Rael’s criminal history was minimal, authorities believe she rented the getaway vehicle, purchased the gun that Rivera used to commit the robberies and, in at least one of the robberies, cased the bank to make sure there wasn’t an armed guard on duty before Rivera robbed it.