ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One Friday night in October, Nicholas Mendoza was visiting his sister at an apartment off West Central and went next door to confront a group of people whom she said had been bothering her.
Police say one of them shot and killed the 28-year-old man.
Monday night, detectives arrested Javier Ponce, 37, in the shooting. He is charged with murder and tampering with evidence.
On Oct. 26, officers called to an apartment complex in the 200 block of 63rd NW found Mendoza on the sidewalk gravely injured. He was taken to a hospital, where he died.
When detectives interviewed Mendoza’s sister, she said he had been visiting her and she told him she had been having issues with the people staying in the apartment next door, according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court.
She told detectives Mendoza had gone to the apartment and asked the occupants to leave her alone. She heard someone say, “Whatever, get outta here! You can’t just barge in here and, if you do, we’re going to shoot you.”
Then, she said she heard a shot.
Mendoza’s wife, his sister and her two daughters confirmed the report to police and told detectives Mendoza had not entered the other apartment. A bullet hole was found in the security door.
Through multiple interviews, detectives determined the shooter was “Califas,” later identified as Ponce, and that he fled with his girlfriend, according to the complaint. A pawn ticket found in a car left on the block had Ponce’s name and date of birth.
Monday night, Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputies told the Albuquerque Police Department homicide unit that Ponce and his girlfriend were found inside a nearby apartment and had misdemeanor warrants out for their arrest.
The couple was taken to APD headquarters to be interviewed.
Ponce told detectives he had been at the apartment on Oct. 27 and Mendoza had “barged into the apartment” and was waving a gun around. He told detectives he shot Mendoza because he was scared of getting shot.
However, detectives say none of the other witnesses said Mendoza had entered the apartment or that he was armed. Officers did not find another gun at the scene.
“Javier advised that he has been hiding out in an attempt to avoid police contact since the homicide,” the detective wrote in the complaint.
Mendoza’s wife, Nicole, described her husband as an outgoing “goofball” who loved to dance and was a loving father to her son.
She said she watched out of her sister-in-law’s window as police arrested Ponce.
Nicole Mendoza said she happened to be visiting when police blocked off the street, shouted Ponce’s name through a megaphone and asked him to surrender.
It had been just over a month since Mendoza said she cradled her husband’s head – after he was shot – on that same block.
“It felt great,” she said of the arrest. “The way I look at it, Nick’s finally getting justice.”