Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
New Mexico State Police officers called Jeanette Armijo over and over – 16 times total – between 11:30 p.m. and 3:14 a.m. one night in November, asking her questions about her 34-year-old son who they said had barricaded himself in his car in Northeast Albuquerque.
The situation ended when police say Roberto Armijo got out of the passenger side of his car holding a machete and officers fired less lethal rounds and their duty rifles at him. He died at the scene.
Now Jeanette Armijo is speaking out about the Nov. 17 incident, saying she wants answers about why officers felt threatened by her son, who she said was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was having delusions that night. She wonders whether her son was trying to attack the officers or whether he was just holding the machete as he got out of the car to escape the chemical munitions they had shot into it to get him to surrender.
“I understand it’s a big knife but you have to be close to somebody to hurt them,” she said. “They wear protective gear … I just don’t know, I’m so confused.”
A State Police spokesman would not answer questions or provide updates about the shooting, including whether the officers’ last call to Jeanette Armijo was before or after her son was killed “around 3 a.m.”
“The name of the officers involved will not be released until all interviews have been conducted,” Officer Dusty Francisco wrote in an email. “Once complete we will send out an updated press release naming the officers involved and additional details that led up to the shooting.”
The Multi-Agency Task Force is investigating the incident. The Journal has requested the lapel camera footage.
Suspect pulled over
In a briefing hours after the shooting, State Police Chief Tim Johnson said the incident had started around 11 p.m. the night before when an officer pulled over a suspected drunken driver near Montgomery and Louisiana NE.
He said as the officer contacted the driver, later identified as Roberto Armijo, he saw that he had “several knives and what appeared to be drug paraphernalia” in the car. Johnson said as the officer – who was trained in crisis intervention – tried to build a rapport with the driver a second officer placed a tire deflation device under his tires.
Johnson said after officers had been talking with Roberto Armijo for hours he “decided to ingest what we believe to be illegal drugs” and then put his vehicle in reverse, crashing into one of the police units. He fled but since his tires were deflated he crashed into the curb at the entrance to a Smith’s grocery store parking lot across the street.
When Roberto Armijo refused to come out of the car, the State Police SWAT team arrived to help, along with a Crisis Negotiation Team officer. Johnson said officers used a flash-bang explosive device and “a chemical munition” and eventually Roberto Armijo came out through the passenger door, carrying the machete, around 3 a.m. Nov. 17.
That’s when tactical officers fired less lethal bean bag rounds at him and two officers fired guns, killing Roberto Armijo.
Jeanette Armijo said around 3:15 a.m. the officers had told her to go to bed and they’d call her in the morning. She said she called several numbers trying to get ahold of the officers shortly before 10 a.m. and then about an hour later they showed up at her door.
On Wednesday, Jeanette Armijo held the funeral service for her son, displaying photos of him as a baby up to his high school graduation. She said he liked being around people and was very smart and good with electronics. He wanted to learn how to build websites.
She said Roberto Armijo was diagnosed with schizophrenia about five years ago after he started having hallucinations and hearing voices that he was convinced were going to hurt him.
He mostly lived with her, except for a couple of years during which his son was born.
“When he was feeling good we would sit and laugh and watch movies and talk,” Jeanette Armijo said. “When he was feeling bad he would stay to himself.”
Jeanette Armijo said Roberto Armijo loved his 11-year-old son “with all his heart” and was talking about him up until the week he died.
But in the days leading up to his death Roberto Armijo was having a bad time.
He had broken his phone and Jeanette Armijo told him to stop by the Walmart where she worked so she could buy him a new one. That evening at her workplace he began telling her he was worried something bad was going to happen to her and people were out to get her so to appease him she spent the night at her sister’s house.
Then the phone calls from the officers began, asking for information – who is important to him, is she OK, and what he had been diagnosed with.
Hours later, he was dead.
“I want to see if my son did something that deserved for you to shoot him,” Jeanette Armijo said. “I need to see that with my eyes. If he didn’t – I think you all used excessive force and you should have done something else.”