ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Detectives have arrested a homeowner who they say fatally shot an unarmed man in the back after he caught that man breaking into his car outside his West Side neighborhood.
Police say the homeowner then lied about his role in the shooting and tried to hide his identity by giving a different last name and date of birth.
Mario Figueroa, 35, is charged with an open count of murder and tampering with evidence in the May 20 death of 31-year-old Jacob Gearing. He was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center on Tuesday afternoon.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court, officers responded to the 9100 block of Petronas SW, near 90th and Eucariz, after Figueroa called 911 reporting he found three people breaking into his car.
Figueroa told police he heard three or four gunshots before the three fled in a white car, and officers collected three shell casings in front of the home.
Officers responding to a second call found the suspect’s vehicle in the parking lot of the nearby El Mezquite Market. Police say Jeremy Ritter and Tara Bell were pacing outside the car and Gearing was in the front seat.
He had been shot twice in the back and was pronounced dead at the scene. Detectives later found Figueroa’s stolen belongings during a search of the car.
Bell, who is charged with auto burglary in the case, told police the three had smoked meth and were burglarizing cars in a nearby neighborhood when the shooting occurred.
According to the complaint, Bell said Gearing and Ritter were breaking into a car when she heard the homeowner yell, “Hey” before several gunshots rang out. After being shot, Gearing struggled to get back in the car before they fled the scene.
Months into the investigation, a detective accessed security footage outside Figueroa’s home and was able to view the shooting.
Police say Figueroa can be seen walking toward the burglary suspects and firing two gunshots at their car. He then fired a third shot as the vehicle drove away before walking “at a normal pace” back into his home.
According to the complaint, the security video contradicts Figueroa’s previous statement about not having a gun or firing one at the burglary suspects.