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One Saturday evening in April 2020, a couple from Chimayó was driving south on Interstate 25 to visit family in Albuquerque.
Pat Martinez was driving as his wife, Jennifer Lopez Martinez, took a nap in the reclining passenger seat.
Between the Kewa Pueblo (also known as Santo Domingo Pueblo) and San Felipe Pueblo they heard a loud cracking sound.
Ears ringing, Pat Martinez pulled over. He was “stunned and dazed, and he started to feel incredibly hot, like he was burning up.”
The couple had been shot and the driver’s side window shattered when Pat Martinez tried to open it. Several shotgun pellets were lodged in his head and torso. Jennifer Lopez Martinez had also been hit once in the earlobe and inhaled glass particles into her mouth.
The incident was one of as many as 20 apparently random shootings along the interstate between Santa Fe and Albuquerque in the first four months of 2020.
Last week, the Martinezes filed a lawsuit laying out those details and alleging that the New Mexico State Police did not investigate the spate of shootings with the “urgency warranted by the highly dangerous, ongoing situation” or do anything to warn the public. The personal injury and property damage suit is filed against the Department of Public Safety and State Police agent Charles Volk, who was investigating the shootings.
“Where, as here, the danger was caused by a person who was randomly shooting at drivers within a limited geographical area, NMSP should have provided information to the public that would have allowed people to minimize their risk of harm by either choosing not to make certain trips or by taking an alternate route,” the lawsuit states. “In providing such information, NMSP also could have solicited investigative leads from the community by asking if anyone had witnessed any of the events or had knowledge or suspicions about who the shooter was.”
In response to questions, a State Police spokesman said once the department learned of multiple shootings between Albuquerque and Santa Fe in March 2020 it increased patrols in the area.
“The public was advised of this information in a press release on March 19th,” agency spokesman Dusty Francisco said. “The State Police took these incidents very seriously and worked diligently with multiple law enforcement agencies to bring this investigation to a resolution by making multiple arrests.”
The news release Francisco referenced announced the arrest of a man suspected of a road rage shooting. It says although an arrest has been made in the case “as an overabundance of caution motorist can still expect to see an increased law enforcement presence” in the area.
That man turned out not to be connected to the string of shootings.
And in the following weeks the shootings continued.
The Martinezes were shot, an ambulance responding to their call was shot in the windshield and another driver reported his vehicle was struck by birdshot pellets when a man in another car fired at him, according to court documents.
According to a criminal complaint filed in federal court, after the last man was shot at – the day after the Martinezes were injured – federal agents reviewed surveillance footage of the car and distributed it in Kewa Pueblo. BIA agents recognized it as belonging to a family who lives on the pueblo and family members said the driver was Byron Rosetta, according to the complaint.
Rosetta, 35, was arrested on April 11 and charged with assault with a deadly weapon, discharging a firearm while in commission of a violent crime, and a crime in Indian Country. Although he is only charged in one instance, the criminal complaint filed against him details the other shootings as well and the U.S. Attorney’s Office said he was a suspect in them. His case is pending.
As for the Martinezes, according to the lawsuit, Pat Martinez still has more than two dozen pellets lodged in his body, nerve damage to his shoulder and neck and lingering dizziness and fatigue. He no longer can ride his beloved Harley-Davidson motorcycle and had to sell it and both he and his wife are afraid of driving.
“They’re having a really rough time and it’s not at all surprising,” their attorney, Laura Schauer Ives, told the Journal. “To have something so violent and out of the blue happen to you is life changing. It certainly changes one’s feeling of safety in the world and they are definitely struggling with, and will continue to struggle with, that.”