ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In a span of about five hours between Monday night and early Tuesday morning, Albuquerque police officers shot and killed two men in separate incidents.
The first incident began around 8 p.m. with a neighbor dispute in a West Side neighborhood near Taylor Ranch. Police identified the man who was killed as 48-year-old Jose Vallejos.
The second occurred across town around 1 a.m. following a call about a home invasion in which police said the suspect exchanged gunfire with officers. The name of the man who was killed has not been released.
Police say firearms were involved in both cases. The Multi Agency Task Force is investigating, as is standard.
Officials provided information at the scene but have not disclosed additional details.
When asked if he had any reaction to the two shootings, Mayor Tim Keller acknowledged that it’s a difficult and tragic time for the families of those who were killed.
“At this point we know these are extremely difficult situations for our officers and so we appreciate everything we believe was done to minimize any violence or danger to anyone,” Keller said. “As usual the details will be combed through in the camera video and so forth.”
The shootings are the fifth and sixth by the Albuquerque Police Department so far this year. Two of the previous shootings — that of Orlando Abeyta, who police say was waving what turned out to be a BB gun at an East Central bus stop, and Valente Acosta-Bustillos, who police say swung a shovel at them during a welfare check that turned into an arrest — were fatal.
The overnight shootings spurred a protest outside APD’s Downtown headquarters on Tuesday evening. Dozens showed up for the event, organized by The Red Nation, an Indigenous activist group.
“What happened last night is a tragedy,” Jennifer Marley, an organizer with The Red Nation, said through a megaphone. “And it cannot happen again and again and again.”
The crowd chanted slogans against police brutality and called for the defunding of the Albuquerque Police Department, referring to APD as “unreformable.”
Speakers cited the city’s high number of police shootings compared to national averages and the crowd waved signs that said “Stop Killing,” “Enough is Enough” and “Abolish all of it.”
A neighbor dispute
Residents of a quiet West Side neighborhood near Taylor Ranch say the men who lived next to each other in the elbow of the street where Sooner Trail meets Pecos Trail NW had been fighting for years.
Their fight boiled over Monday night and police say around 8:15 p.m. officers were sent to the area because a caller said his neighbor had pointed a firearm at him.
“Officers were given the information that one of the neighbors was armed with a firearm and to compound the problem there was a young child that was positioned between the two feuding neighbors,” said Deputy Chief Harold Medina in a news conference at the scene shortly before midnight.
He said officers arrived on scene and there was some kind of altercation. At least one officer fired a gun and Vallejos was struck at least once. He died on scene and a firearm was located nearby, said an APD spokesman.
“It’s unknown if anyone else fired any type of firearm,” Medina said.
Medina did not know how old the child was or what relationship they had to those involved in the fight. He said the child was talking on the phone with 911 during the incident and was not hurt.
Medina said at least three officers were on scene but he did not know how many fired shots. He said at least one officer will be placed on administrative leave, which is standard following a shooting.
About a dozen family members gathered in the street outside the crime scene tape, crying and asking field service officers for more information, late into the night.
Brenda Romero said Vallejos was the father of her husband’s brother. She said they were told that police were called to Vallejos’ home and there was a shooting, but little else. She said officers were talking to his wife and Medina confirmed detectives interviewed several witnesses.
“We haven’t been able to speak to him or anything,” Romero said around 9:45 p.m. “We have bits and pieces of neighbors saying they saw an ambulance leave.”
Neighbors also gathered in front of their houses, talking and trying to see the crime scene down the street.
JoAnn Rodriguez said she was outside watering her plants when she heard what sounded like a loud argument a block or so away.
It sounded like “people arguing and they were screaming at each other,” Rodriguez said.
Others said they thought they heard more than one gunshot and a woman screaming that someone had been killed.
By Tuesday afternoon, the neighborhood was quiet. No one was home at Vallejos’ house and a sign on the door warned “Never mind the dog beware of the owner” and had an image of the barrel of a gun. Other signs in the window discouraged solicitors, saying the residents believed in Jesus and knew who they were going to vote for.
Next door was an expansive house with a gated driveway, a boat, an RV and a jet ski. The owners were talking to a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputy and did not return calls from the Journal.
Around 1 a.m., about five hours after the call that led to the first shooting, neighbors in a University-area neighborhood of Southeast Albuquerque heard two gunshots ring out.
Within 10 minutes of the first shots there was a volley of gunfire, soon followed by the reds and blues of police lights reflecting off nearby windows.
In a news conference at that scene, Deputy Chief Medina said it started when police were called to a home in the 2700 block of Garfield, near Vassar SE.
He said a homeowner called 911 and told the dispatcher that he had opened fire on multiple people after they broke into his home.
When officers arrived, they found a man a few houses away and, Medina said, that man fired at police. He said at least one officer shot back, hitting him. No officers were injured.
The man was taken to the hospital, where he died.
Medina said, at this point, it is unclear if the man who police shot was involved in the alleged home invasion, and he did not provide any other details about the initial call.
He said at least one officer will be on standard administrative leave while authorities investigate.
Police have not identified the man who was shot or said if there were any other suspects being sought.
A neighbor in the area told the Journal they called 911 after hearing rapid bursts of gunfire and a woman screaming. The man said an ambulance pulled up and took at least one person away.
Numerous police vehicles shut down the surrounding streets as crime scene tape wound around a block of Garfield, between Vassar and Princeton SE. A car alarm could be heard droning on nearby as officers told onlookers to go back inside their homes.
Investigators walked along the surrounding streets and alleyways with flashlights, searching the ground for evidence as a mobile crime lab idled at the corner.
As the sun rose Tuesday morning, investigators had laid out evidence markers in the street, alongside parked cars and homes. Mask-clad officers went in and out of a home that had a visible bullet hole through the front window — identified with a thick square of orange tape. No one answered the door Tuesday afternoon.
By that time, much of the Albuquerque police, yellow tape and evidence markers, had moved out, and State Police officers could be seen going door-to-door interviewing neighbors about what happened as part of the Multi Agency Task Force investigation.