ABQ man sentenced to 18 months for his role in deadly gunfight - Albuquerque Journal

ABQ man sentenced to 18 months for his role in deadly gunfight

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

A federal judge sentenced Richard Kuykendall on Monday to 18 months in prison for his role in a 2021 incident in which three men were killed during a gunfight in a car.

After the shootout, Kuykendall jumped into the driver’s seat, drove the bullet-riddled car to a Northeast Heights hospital and called 911 seeking medical help for the three men.

Richard Kuykendall (MDC)

Kuykendall, 42, pleaded guilty in April to a federal charge of felon in possession of a firearm. U.S. District Judge Kea Riggs sentenced Kuykendall under the terms of the plea agreement.

Kuykendall has not been charged in state District Court in connection with the killings.

Lauren Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s office, said the DA’s office has not received a referral from law enforcement to initiate charges against Kuykendall.

In his federal plea agreement, Kuykendall acknowledged that he was present at the scene of the May 12, 2021, gunfight and “briefly but intentionally” possessed one of several handguns used in the shootout. As a convicted felon, Kuykendall is forbidden from possessing a firearm.

Federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum that the 18-month sentence “represents a very substantial variance” from federal sentencing guidelines, which recommend a prison sentence of five years or longer given Kuykendall’s felony record.

But prosecutors said the sentence is justified given the unusual circumstances of Kuykendall’s role in the gunfight, and the “complicated problems of proof involved in a potential trial in this case.”

Authorities also alleged that the three men killed in the gunfight, and Kuykendall himself, had an “apparent association” to the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, which Kuykendall’s attorney denies.

Albuquerque attorney Erlinda Johnson provided prison records to the court that indicate Kuykendall had no known gang affiliations while he was incarcerated in the New Mexico Department of Correction on a 2006 conviction for motor vehicle theft.

“It was initially thought this was a case involving members of an Aryan Brotherhood gang or some white supremacist gang,” Johnson said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

In a July 15 sentencing memorandum, federal prosecutors described the events that led to the fatal shootings.

Kuykendall arrived in an alley near Cutler and San Pedro NE several minutes before a Ford Taurus pulled up driven by his friend, Brandon Torres, 44. A passenger in the front seat, James Fisher, 41, also was known to Kuykendall.

A third man, Michael “Spider Mike” Sanchez, 33, was in the rear passenger seat. All three were suspected members of the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang, prosecutors wrote in the sentencing memorandum.

As Kuykendall approached the rear passenger window, Sanchez “began shooting at (Kuykendall) at point-blank range, narrowly missing him,” according to the sentencing memorandum.

The shots set off a close-quarters gunfight inside the car between Sanchez and Kuykendall’s friends in the front seat.

Security video shows Kuykendall scrambling around the car in a crouched position while the gunfight raged inside. When the smoke cleared, Torres, Fisher and Sanchez all had been fatally shot.

After the shooting subsided, Kuykendall opened the rear door of the car, removed a handgun, and placed it near a dumpster.

A sentencing memorandum filed last month by Kuykendall’s attorney said he removed the pistol “for his own safety and the safety of others.”

Kuykendall then drove the car to Presbyterian Kaseman Hospital, near Wyoming and Constitution. “As he approached the hospital, he called 911 and begged the operator to send help for the dying men,” Johnson wrote.

Kuykendall’s record includes separate arrests for assault and battery of a family member and battery with a deadly weapon, a baseball bat, in Massachusetts, and forgery, larceny and identity theft in New Mexico.

Sanchez opened fire because he had a “misperception” that he was being falsely blamed for thefts, Johnson said. In fact, Kuykendall knew that Sanchez had been falsely accused and wanted to speak with Sanchez to “clear the air,” she said.

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