Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Eighteen months after Josette Otero’s 15-year-old son was gunned down while driving on Albuquerque’s West Side, her cousin was shot to death while taking his 7-year-old grandson to school.
And in between those two homicides – both suspected to be the result of road rage – her nephew, Elias Otero, was killed during what police believe was an attempted carjacking. No arrests have been made in that case.
“I sometimes feel like I’m cursed,” Otero said.
Otero said that in the months after her son Kyle Martinez was fatally shot on April 22, 2020, she quit her job and fell into a deep depression, not wanting to do anything or even leave the house. These days, she says her daughter mostly drives her around since seeing other cars on the road – especially those with dark tinted windows – gives her waves of intense anxiety.
“It feels like I’m having a heart attack; I mean my whole body just kind of just shuts down,” Otero said. “I can’t stand being in a grocery store. I just can’t stand being in enclosed places. It just takes a really bad toll on me to go anywhere.”
When she found out her cousin Nelson Gallegos Jr. was killed on Oct. 6 – his birthday – Otero said she broke down and cried.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I was like, not Nelson … he’s a God-fearing man. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.”
The number of homicides in Albuquerque has spiked in 2021 – already surpassing previous record years.
Gallegos, who was killed in a suspected road rage incident in front of a café on Central near Rio Grande, is one of the most recent victims. No one has been arrested in the case, but police last week released a photo from a security camera that they believe shows the gray pickup truck the suspect was driving.
Otero is now trying to help other family members, including Gallegos’ sister, prepare for what’s next.
“Trying to let her know everything that, you know, I’m going through and have gone through that I can try to help her with,” Otero said. “It’s not an easy road, and especially when you don’t know that there’s resources out there. You don’t know where to turn and I was like that for a good year.”
It took more than a year before a suspect was charged in Martinez’s death.
Kevin Metzgar, 20, was indicted on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated battery, shooting at or from a motor vehicle and tampering with evidence in June. He is also facing federal charges in an apparently unrelated case for possession with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl.
His attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
According to a motion for pre-trial detention filed in 2nd Judicial District Court, the passenger in Martinez’s black Ford Mustang told investigators that, when they exited the interstate onto Unser NW, they realized a silver Audi was following them. Martinez had his learner’s permit, Otero said.
When they stopped at a red light, “some words were exchanged between the occupants of both vehicles,” according to the motion.
“The driver, later alleged to be the defendant, brandished a rifle-pistol identified as a micro-draco and fired multiple rounds into the Mustang, wounding (the passenger) and killing (Martinez),” the prosecutor states in the motion. “Multiple individuals witnessed parts of this incident, including when the silver Audi fled the scene.”
Martinez was taken to the hospital, where he died. His passenger was also injured.
It’s unclear how detectives came to suspect Metzgar, but he was also wanted in connection with a similar case that had occurred about a month earlier.
On March 13, 2020, an Albuquerque Police Department lieutenant was driving near Corona and Ouray NW when he saw a muzzle flash and heard a gunshot as a silver Chevrolet SUV and a silver Audi drew side by side with one another. Then, the lieutenant heard “numerous gunshots and saw the driver, later identified as Eric Asbury, exit and run toward the rear of the SUV yelling ‘he is shooting at me in the silver Audi,’ ” according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court.
The lieutenant tried to stop the Audi sedan, but it sped off, crashing into a Toyota Tacoma.
Asbury told police the man who shot at him had left a nearby marijuana dispensary and the manager of the store identified him as Metzgar. A warrant was issued, but it wasn’t until two days after Martinez was killed that Metzgar was arrested. He pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in April and was sentenced to an actual term of one year in prison.
In the motion for pre-trial detention filed in the case involving Martinez, prosecutors mention the Asbury case, saying that “at the time that the defendant committed this crime, he was out on the streets during an active warrant for arrest where he shot at another individual in an eerily similar manner.”
Metzgar will be held in jail while awaiting trial in Martinez’s death.
Otero was still reeling from her son’s death when, in February, her nephew on her husband’s side was gunned down in a neighborhood near Central and 98th SW. Police found 24-year-old Elias Otero – a former corrections officer at the Metropolitan Detention Center – had been shot multiple times. He died at the scene.
Police said witnesses described the shooting as happening during a carjacking. A car was found crashed and abandoned several blocks away. No one has been arrested in the case.
For Josette Otero, the deaths of her family members over the past 18 months are the latest tragedies in a life that was marred by violence before she was born.
While her mother was pregnant, her father, Joseph Milcher, was killed during a 1967 fight that occurred when he and two other men had stopped to change a flat tire. Otero said the family was moving across the country and had stopped in Albuquerque. They ended up staying.
More recently, she and Elias Otero’s mother have joined others who lost loved ones to violence. They started the New Mexico Crusaders for Justice group on Facebook and participated in a rally on Civic Plaza in September in remembrance of those lost to violence.
They are advocating for changes to the pre-trial detention system and other criminal justice laws, as well as for more education and opportunities for children, Otero said.
She wears a sweatshirt with her son’s face and Mustang on the front, and has decals bearing his name and likeness on her car.
“I have to be his voice, I have to be out there, I have to get justice for him and also I’m going to fight until that happens,” Otero said. “I have to fight for Nelson, too. He died the same way by a coward. My son didn’t deserve what he got (and) neither did Nelson.”