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Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
One of a kind. Irreplaceable.
That’s how co-workers describe Jose “Ruben” Diaz, a 45-year-old father of two shot to death inside his work truck near the Big I early Monday.
Diaz would have no way of knowing that the driver pulling alongside him was high on meth, delusional and thought Diaz was a threat to him and his friends. That’s why Donald Duquette, 51, pulled out a gun and fired several bullets into Diaz’s truck, one fatally striking him in the head, according to police.
“Nobody would want to hurt Ruben,” co-worker Pamelove Powell said. “He didn’t have enemies.”
More than 18 hours after Diaz’s body was found, Albuquerque police said, Duquette showed up at the New Mexico State Police headquarters in tears, telling officers he shot Diaz apparently during a drug-fueled delusion – believing Diaz was going to kidnap his friend and sell her for heroin.
A longtime paramedic until June of last year, Duquette was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center on Tuesday morning on an open count of murder and shooting at or from a motor vehicle. Police said they were waiting for the Office of the Medical Investigator to officially identify the victim, but co-workers said the man killed was Diaz.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court, officers responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle on the ramp from eastbound Interstate 40 to southbound Interstate 25 around 4 a.m. and found Diaz slumped over the wheel in a PG Enterprises work truck. He was pronounced dead.
Police said a distraught Duquette walked into the State Police headquarters, at Menaul and Carlisle NE, around 10 p.m. Monday, saying he had shot at someone who was following him on the freeway “to protect himself.”
According to the complaint, Duquette said he became paranoid after smoking methamphetamine and marijuana with a friend on Sunday, believing people were going to kidnap his friends and “sell them into slavery for heroin.”
Duquette told police he went to his house afterward and grabbed four guns, ammo and a bulletproof vest because he felt like “something was going to happen” before meeting with a friend.
Police say Duquette and the female friend were driving separate vehicles on the freeway to a hotel when he saw Diaz in the PG Enterprises truck and thought he was a kidnapper who was after his friend.
Duquette told police he thought he saw “flashes from a gun” coming from Diaz’s vehicle so he shot at the truck around five times before watching it swerve and hit the wall.
Police found no guns or bullet casings in the truck Diaz was driving but did find a .45-caliber handgun on the floorboard of Duquette’s truck after he turned himself in.
Duquette has one felony on his record in New Mexico. He pleaded no contest in 2005 to a drug trafficking charge. Under federal law, it’s illegal for a felon to have a firearm.
Job took a toll
Presbyterian Healthcare Services confirmed that Duquette had worked there, as a paramedic with Albuquerque Ambulance, since 2010. His employment ended in late June 2018, but the company would not say whether he quit or was fired or give any other details.
Dawn Schweich, Duquette’s roommate, former co-worker and a member of his motorcycle club, said he called her in hysterics repeatedly on Sunday and kept hanging up.
“He was calling back and forth, just rambling on, not making any sense,” she said.
Schweich said Duquette told her his girlfriend was kidnapped, claimed “they are out to get us” and eventually accused her of turning against him.
She said he called her back Monday morning to say he was turning himself in but did not say why. Schweich said she was later interviewed by police.
When she discovered what Duquette was accused of doing, she thought to herself, “That’s not my brother, that’s not my roommate, that’s not my friend.”
Schweich said Duquette founded the Death Fighters Motorcycle Club as a tribute to his dad, who died in a crash, and he was her mentor during her training at Albuquerque Ambulance. She said that he also won three Death Fighter awards for saving lives as a paramedic but that the job took a toll on him.
Toward the end of 2017, Schweich said, Duquette began to show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder following “a long list of bad calls” during his 10 years as a paramedic, particularly those involving children. She said those at work began to notice, and Duquette was given a choice to quit or be let go. He decided to leave, she said.
From there, she said, Duquette turned from the positive, sweet and fun person she met to someone who didn’t want to leave the house. She said he tried to get into counseling. Schweich said he began to self-medicate, and his behavior got more erratic, including suicidal and paranoid statements over the past few months. He often spoke of seeing the faces of the children who died on his watch.
“I’m not making excuses,” Schweich said. “My condolences go toward the gentleman who got killed, for his family. There’s nothing I could say to excuse, defend, what Don (allegedly) did.”
Victim not on the clock
An employee of PG Enterprises said Diaz, a truck driver for the company, was not on the clock when he was killed. He had borrowed the work truck Saturday after his own truck broke down.
Powell and Cheyanne Colmenero, Diaz’s co-workers at PG Enterprises, said he was “a great person” who brought joy and laughter to the office every day. PG Enterprises distributes gravel, granite and other aggregates.
“Anytime you were having a bad day … he would always cheer you up,” Powell said.
Powell said the pair had a tradition of going to a casino to eat heaping plates of food.
Colmenero said Diaz used to leave sticky notes with cute drawings or funny sayings on her desk.
“I have some on my computer, and I will never get rid of them, because I’m not going to get anymore,” Colmenero said. “He will be greatly missed.”
KOAT-TV contributed to this report.