An innocent bystander lost one of her eyes after being struck in the face by a stray bullet last week while driving on East Central.
Police say Cesar Contreras-Diaz, 19, Christopher Rivera, 20, Kylie Crooke, 19, and Elora Manuelito, 18, fired at a separate vehicle that had cut them off when the woman was shot.
Deputies arrested the group hours later when they were found with multiple guns after an alleged drive-by shooting at a mobile home park on the West Side, according to court records.
All four are charged with several felonies, including shooting at a dwelling or occupied building, aggravated battery resulting in great bodily harm and unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon.
The group is behind bars at the Metropolitan Detention Center. It is unclear if any of them have attorneys.
Rivera is the only one with a prior criminal history, having been arrested in August 2022 for allegedly shooting up a relative’s home, according to court records. At the time a relative told deputies Rivera had become “more aggressive and angry” since his mother’s death.
That case was dismissed when the officer and/or prosecutor failed to show up to court.
According to the criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court in the recent incident:
On Wednesday, Jan. 25, Bernalillo County deputies responded around 11 p.m. to reports of a group in a blue pickup truck firing guns outside a mobile home park on Atrisco Vista, just south of Central. A deputy tried to pull over the truck and it fled.
The driver, Crooke, dropped off Contreras-Diaz, Rivera and Manuelito, one by one and they were all detained by deputies. A handgun was found near Contreras-Diaz and a rifle-like gun was found near Rivera.
One of the girls told deputies the group had carried out a drive-by shooting on a mobile home that belonged to Rivera’s sister’s “baby daddy.” The girl said they had also been involved in a separate shooting as well, but gave no more details at the time.
Hours earlier, around 5 p.m., a woman called 911 to report she had been shot in the face while driving near San Pedro and Central. Doctors found the bullet was lodged in the woman’s brain and she would need surgery. In the end, she lost her left eye.
The woman told police she didn’t see anyone “shooting or driving erratically” before she felt “pain in her face” and noticed her broken windshield. Surveillance video showed a passenger in a blue truck firing at a van that had cut them off but police say the bullets struck the woman, who happened to be driving past.
Deputies told police the case may be connected to the group arrested on the West Side and detectives compared the surveillance video to the impounded blue truck, believing them to be the same.
Police interviewed the group separately at MDC and one girl said she recently met the other three on social media. The girl told police Rivera and Contreras-Diaz were both armed when the trio picked her up in the blue truck.
She said a white van cut them off and Rivera and Contreras-Diaz both fired at the van. The girl told police that, afterward, the three told her they “had to go to another house and shoot at it.”
She said she then realized how dangerous the three were and she was afraid to object or call 911. During his interview, Rivera said he was “blacked out” drunk on the day of the shooting.
He initially tried to distance himself from the shooting and the truck they were in. Rivera also told police his life had been difficult since his brother, 22-year-old Brian Romero, was fatally shot in 2018.
The detective asked Rivera “to remember his brother and how difficult it was” to cope with his death. The detective told Rivera “now a family’s life is forever changed.”
Rivera reportedly then asked if the case was a homicide and requested a lawyer before asking if the woman “was going to be OK.” The detective told him he didn’t know and Rivera reportedly said, “I shot, I shot. Write that down,” before he began crying.
Rivera told police he would give a full statement once he had an attorney and, after being given a minute to compose himself, was taken back to his cell.