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Mom of 2 State Police officers shot dead in her West Side driveway

APD investigates after a woman was fatally shot during an early morning suspected robbery attempt. (Adolphe Piere-Louis / Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Just after 5 a.m. Tuesday, a man called 911 to say his wife had been shot.

She was slumped over, not moving, in her car in the driveway. He couldn’t open the door.

When paramedics arrived, the woman – a mother of two State Police officers – was already dead.

“It’s pretty apparent,” a first responder said over the dispatch radio.

Detectives with the Albuquerque Police Department think it was an attempted robbery. New Mexico State Police are calling it a “tragic loss.”

“The mother of two New Mexico State Police officers was senselessly murdered this morning,” said Ray Wilson, a State Police spokesman. Wilson said the agency is working closely with APD to catch “those responsible for this heinous crime.”

Bernalillo County’s top prosecutor said the woman had been warming up her car when she was killed.

Gilbert Gallegos, an APD spokesman, had not identified the victim as of press time, but neighbors identified her as Jacqueline “Jackie” Vigil, a woman in her 50s.

Gallegos said that a little after 5 a.m., officers were called to the 2100 block of Corte de Loma NW, near Unser and Ladera, for a shooting. When they arrived at the cul-de-sac, they found a woman dead in her car, at least one of the windows shattered.

“All indications are that she was in her car, getting ready to go to the gym apparently, and this appears to be a robbery attempt of some sort,” Gallegos said. “Two individuals were seen leaving the area in a brown Jeep Cherokee.”

He said that after the shooting, a horn started honking and neighbors had come out of their houses to see the Jeep fleeing the scene.

“It sounds like just an innocent victim who was getting ready to go out in the morning. We don’t know the circumstances if they were trying to rob her or the vehicle, but it does look like an attempted robbery,” Gallegos said.

He said he couldn’t elaborate on why detectives think it was a robbery attempt “at this point in the investigation.”

The shooting occurred in a well-manicured, upper-middle-class neighborhood on the city’s West Side.

Neighbors Traci and Jani Riffe called the shooting a “complete tragedy” and “totally unexpected.”

Having lived across the street for 17 years, Jani Riffe called it a “privilege” to speak for Vigil – who she described as very sweet, “high energy” and often seen in workout clothes.

“I couldn’t say enough nice things about her – she was truly beautiful on the inside and out,” Riffe said, “… always smiling, open and welcoming.”

Jani Riffe said she felt fearful of, and angry at, whoever was responsible.

“I sure hope they are caught quickly,” she said. “We thought this was a pretty safe neighborhood.”

Speaking to a group of business leaders at a luncheon Tuesday, District Attorney Raúl Torrez referenced the killing.

“At 5 o’clock this morning, in Albuquerque, a mother of two State Police officers went to her vehicle to warm up her vehicle and we think go to the gym, and she was killed in the driveway of her home,” he said. “That is yet another example of the absolute tragedy that is ultimately in our hands. It is something that impacts us all.”

This was the 71st homicide in Albuquerque this year, surpassing last year’s total of 69 homicides. The highest number in recent history was in 2017, when there were 72.

Gallegos said although there were 71 homicides in the city, one of those – the fatal shooting of a letter carrier in a West Side neighborhood – was investigated by the FBI, not APD.

Gallegos pointed to guns, drugs and gangs as a possible driver of the violence.

“It’s very frustrating, especially these type of homicides where we have little information to go on,” Gallegos said. “It’s one thing if we’re trying to stop an auto theft or a rash of auto theft in the area. … We can deploy lots of officers to that area and take care of it, but a senseless homicide maybe related to an auto theft, we just can’t predict that.”

Those who live nearby were shocked in the wake of the shooting.

David Herrera said he heard moaning and crying from across the street before someone yelled to call the police. When Herrera looked outside, he said he saw someone pacing in the garage as a black Cadillac sat in the driveway.

He said the reverse lights were on, but the car “didn’t move.”

“It shakes your sense of security,” said Stephanie Gallegos, another neighbor. “I’m sad for her. She was probably my age.”

Gallegos said she was awakened by a single pop around 5 a.m., but didn’t think anything of it. Within the hour, a detective was knocking on her door and the cul-de-sac was bustling with police activity.

Gallegos said she didn’t know Vigil too well, except for “a wave here and there,” but the woman was always friendly.

“This is a nice, quiet place,” she said. “I just feel bad, I feel very bad.”

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