Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
David Hart, 56, spent much of his time on West Central, near 98th Street.
Police reports show he was frequently interviewed as a witness to violence in the area – a stabbing in 2017, a fight in 2018, a drive-by shooting in which no one was hit in 2019.
The staff at the smoke shop at the corner said he was a nice guy and they’d see him often, standing on the median, asking for money.
That’s where he was and what he was doing Sunday around 9:45 a.m. when he was shot in the head. Hart died at the scene.
Albuquerque police have arrested 21-year-old Isaiah Luna and charged him with murder. According to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court, Luna’s mother brought him from her house to the scene after he told her and his girlfriend that he had shot “a homeless male who asked him for money.”
Detectives say security camera video from the smoke shop shows a white Jeep Commander stop at the light in the left lane on Central, waiting to turn south on to 98th Street. Then a man, later identified as Hart, walked up to the driver’s side window.
“The homeless male passes the white Jeep Commander and it appears the male driver rolls the window down and says something to the homeless male,” the detective wrote in the complaint. “The homeless male turns back towards the white Jeep and walks to the window. The homeless male appears to attempt to walk away a few times and is drawn back in by conversation from the driver of the Jeep. The driver of the white Jeep then shoots the homeless male.”
Prosecutors have asked for Luna to be held in jail pending trial and a judge will make a determination at a hearing Friday. Luna’s mother did not respond to requests for comment from the Journal.
His public defender, Jeff Rein, said he had not yet had a chance to meet with Luna so it is too early for him to comment on the case.
When Luna’s mother was interviewed she told detectives her son had post traumatic stress disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, intermittent explosive disorder and ADHD and when he “pops off” he can be very violent and “can’t be brought back down.” She pointed out a scar above her left eye that she said was from where Luna struck her one time when he “popped off.”
Luna’s mother said she owns the white Jeep Commander but she had let him drive it.
In the spring of 2018, Luna’s mother filed a petition in Los Lunas District Court to be appointed his temporary guardian. According to online records a hearing was held the day before he turned 18, but the documents have been sealed, so it’s unclear what the result was.
Police reports paint a picture of a tumultuous life, as officers were frequently called for fights between Luna and his younger brother, mother, or friends and neighbors. Sometimes he was the offender but other times he was the victim or a witness.
In December 2018, officers were called because of “Isaiah’s escalating behaviors” after Luna thought that someone stole $5 from him.
In April 2019, police were again called because – while there hadn’t been a physical altercation – “Mr. Luna had been increasing in his aggression with his mother.” At that time when Luna’s mother was interviewed she said she had arranged for him to move into an apartment.
“Luna’s mother told officers she loved and wanted to help him but due to (him) not taking his medication, not specified, he was just too hard to handle at home,” an officer wrote in an incident report. “She had only two weeks till he was out of the home and then the fighting could stop.”
Luna’s time at the apartment wasn’t any easier. Between early August and late September 2019, he was interviewed twice as a neighbor who overheard altercations leading to two separate homicides at the Arioso Apartments on Montgomery.
As recently as August, the ShotSpotter gun detection system alerted police to shots fired at Luna’s mother’s Southwest Albuquerque home. When officers arrived she told them she had bought “the 25 caliber Titan two weeks (ago) from a friend due to the crime issues on her street.”
She had taken it to the West Mesa to test it but it had malfunctioned so she got new ammunition and asked Luna to try it in her backyard. He fired into a football on the ground. The gun does not appear to be the same one used to kill Hart a month and a half later.
A police spokesman said detectives have not found Hart’s next of kin. The Journal could not find his family either and instead combed through records and talked to people at the scene to try to get a picture of his last several years.
Hart appears to have been homeless and staying in the area around 98th and Central for some time. He had been interviewed a couple of times as a witness to a violent crime in the area.
In November 2017 officers were called to the Church’s Chicken on 98th because a homeless man had been stabbed in the stomach and was lying by a dumpster, according to a police report. As rescue was working on the victim, Hart – who was described as “also homeless and sober” – approached an officer and said he hadn’t seen the fight but he had seen the man walk down the alley with a tall black man who has a camp behind the building.
The victim survived and was taken to the hospital. The suspect was interviewed and said the victim and another man had actually attacked him and he fought back.
The case was closed pending further leads.
Almost 11 months later, officers interviewed Hart after he witnessed a fight in an area off Central, east of 98th, where people have set up mobile homes. In that case, a man had waved a gun and threatened to take back a camper that a woman said her father had bought six months earlier.
And in June 2019, officers interviewed Hart after someone in a Chevrolet Malibu fired a “pump shotgun with a brown handle and stock” several times at three men who were walking near a Dollar Tree on 98th.
“Hart stated that he heard the pellets from the shotgun rounds striking the tree leaves above him,” an officer wrote in a police report. “Hart got behind a tree and stayed there until the vehicle left. Hart stated the Malibu possibly had a turquoise plate but did not get the numbers.”
Casings were located nearby but no suspects or victims were identified. By Monday afternoon all traces of Sunday’s shooting and the investigation were gone from the intersection. Instead, Antoinette Benavidez was there in the same spot, asking for money with her 9-year-old dog Bambi. She said she knew Hart from the area and would say “hi” to him.
But she also noticed sometimes he would get upset at drivers.
“He was basically a good guy,” she said. “He spent many years on the streets. It’s rough and it gets to you, I know that he did have a bad attitude.”
Benavidez said she arrived at the intersection on Sunday shortly after the shooting occurred.
“It’s scary,” she said. “You never know who you’re dealing with in that car.”