Court documents detail triple homicide - Albuquerque Journal

Court documents detail triple homicide

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Richard Kuykendall was walking down an alleyway in Northeast Albuquerque when two friends he had known for years drove up in a car. When the 41-year-old tried to get in, bullets flew at him as a man in the backseat opened fire.

A close-quarters gunfight ensued inside the car between the man in the backseat and Kuykendall’s friends. When the smoke cleared, Kuykendall jumped into the bullet-riddled car to find the three men dead. He stashed a gun nearby then jumped into the driver seat with the men and left them and the car at Kaseman Hospital.

Authorities have not provided an update in the May 24 triple homicide, but recent court documents filed by Kuykendall’s attorney provide the new perspective on the fatal shootings.

Prosecutors allege Kuykendall was part of a conspiracy to “assault or kill” someone in the car and may have killed the man in the backseat, 33-year-old Michael Sanchez. An emptied gun was found near Sanchez’s body.

Authorities say the three dead men – Brandon Torres, 44, James Fisher, 41, and Sanchez – are members of the Aryan Brotherhood and Kuykendall is affiliated with the gang.

Kuykendall was arrested soon after and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm for stashing the gun behind a dumpster. He has not been charged in the deaths, which are being investigated by the Albuquerque Police Department.

An APD spokesman said there were no updates on the case and the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment.

Erlinda Johnson, Kuykendall’s attorney, called the charge against her client “completely unjustified.” She wrote in a recent motion that “momentary possession or touching of a firearm in an emergency situation” does not support it.

“You cannot expect someone who is going to render aid and drive these individuals to the hospital, to leave a firearm in the backseat within reach of the guy who just shot at my client,” she told the Journal on Friday. “… To argue that he did something criminal, frankly, it’s a miscarriage of justice in this case.”

Johnson recently asked a federal judge to release Kuykendall pending trial, arguing that new evidence shows his DNA wasn’t found on the gun because he didn’t fire it and only removed it from the car for his own safety.

In response, prosecutors acknowledged the complexities of the case but wrote whether Kuykendall possessed the gun – evident by a bloody imprint of a firearm on his shirt – “is simply not one of them” and called the motion an “attempt to muddy the waters in an already complex set of facts.”

Johnson also said her client is not affiliated with the gang, verified by a nationally recognized gang expert, and his tattoos were misidentified and taken out of context by authorities.

“The way he’s been painted in the media is really unfair – the way that he has been maligned and associated with a gang that he has absolutely no affiliation with,” she told the Journal.

In a 911 call obtained by the Journal, an out of breath Kuykendall frantically tells a dispatcher there’s a car full of gunshot victims at the hospital.

“They’re in the vehicle, they’re right here,” he told the dispatcher. “… Just come save these people, thank you.”

Johnson’s motion includes letters from Kuykendall’s friends, family and coworkers, many of whom acknowledge his legal troubles and drug use but adamantly deny the gang ties.

“He is a victim of his addictions and resulting poor decisions,” his father wrote. “He may suffer from self-hate but he is not a bigot.”

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