Five charged in Albuquerque drug theft plot that left one man dead - Albuquerque Journal

Five charged in Albuquerque drug theft plot that left one man dead

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Detectives charged three men and two women this week in the drug robbery that left Ryan Saavedra Jr. dead last April at a West Side park.

Christian Benson, 22, Ajole Guzman, 19, and the alleged shooter Domminick Mullen, 21, are each charged with an open count of murder, attempted robbery and conspiracy in the April 21 death of 19-year-old Saavedra Jr.

Elijah Tafoya, 19, and his girlfriend Arianna Hawkins, 19, are charged with attempted robbery and conspiracy in the case.

Hawkins was arrested Wednesday and Benson was already in custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in a separate case. Arrest warrants have been issued for Mullen, Guzman and Tafoya.

Ryan Saavedra Sr., Saavedra’s father, said the family has felt a wash of emotions: relieved, sad, broken.

Ryan Saavedra Jr. (Courtesy of Ryan Saavedra Sr.)

Court records show Benson sold fentanyl to an undercover officer a week before Saavedra’s death, during an operation targeting social media drug sales in response to rising 2021 homicides. He wasn’t charged or arrested in that bust until early May.

Ryan Saavedra Sr., Saavedra’s father, said the family has felt a wash of emotions: relieved, sad, broken.

Saavedra said that, 10 months ago, his son went out with his girlfriend, told his dad that he loved him and would see him the next morning. He said, within an hour, they received a call that he was gone.

“Just a few days after Ryan had passed, if you asked, ‘What did you do today?’ I would tell you, ‘I went to go pick out a casket for my son,'” he said, growing emotional.

“One of the most precious things in my life was taken from me,” he said. “I’ll never be the same.”

Saavedra said victim liaison Terry Huertaz, Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina and Deputy Cmdr. Kyle Hartsock were invaluable during the investigation. He said the group helped the family stay patient and understand the process.

“I feel it’s been swift and they’re really doing an outstanding job,” Saavedra said. “I respect these people with all my heart.”

According to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court:

Police responded around 12:45 a.m. to Presbyterian Hospital on Central after Saavedra’s girlfriend brought him in with multiple gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead and police traced the shooting to Westgate Heights Park, southeast of 98th and Sage.

Police found several bullet casings in the parking lot and Saavedra’s girlfriend told them they met some people at the park, where Saavedra was pepper-sprayed, then shot. Detectives looked through Saavedra’s phone and found messages from someone asking to buy fentanyl.

The messages led police to Tafoya, who told them he, Hawkins, Benson, Guzman and “Kash” were all addicted to fentanyl, but had no money. Tafoya said they decided to find someone on social media selling the drug and rob them.

He said they first posed as a dealer and robbed a man of $20, taunting him with a photo of Mullen holding a gun with the message “come get it back in blood.” Tafoya told police they then set up a deal to rob someone of 100 fentanyl pills at the park.

He said “Kash” opened fire on the car when the dealer drove away during the robbery and then pointed a gun at Tafoya’s head when he got mad at him “for shooting someone.” Police spoke with Benson at the MDC and he identified “Kash” as Mullen in a photo lineup. Benson said he was “unsure” why Mullen opened fire on the car, and that Mullen was “the instigator to rob people” and the only one armed with a gun.

Police said the gun used in the homicide was found later in the year.

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