Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
It was anything but a typical summer afternoon on Albuquerque’s West Side.
Three Albuquerque public schools were shut down along with part of the Taylor Ranch neighborhood while Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputies and federal agents searched for a homicide suspect they considered “armed and dangerous.” The suspect, who was wounded, was eventually taken into custody after at least one deputy fired a gun during the incident. The suspect also fired at deputies, according to the sheriff’s office, but he was not armed when police found him hiding in the closet of a nearby home.
He was identified by BCSO as Alexander Trinidad Gallegos, 45, and was captured after a four-hour manhunt in the suburban neighborhood. His injuries were not life-threatening and he was taken to a hospital, deputies said.
Neighbors coming home from work around 5 p.m. lined up their cars near crime scene tape at Calle Nortena and Wagon Mound, waiting to be able to go home. A BCSO helicopter circled the area for hours, and SWAT officers climbed onto an armored vehicle. Both BCSO and APD’s mobile command centers were on the scene.
Neighbors said they were worried that an armed man was on the loose in their neighborhood.
The manhunt that began after a confrontation between Gallegos and law enforcement officers tied the area in knots.
Chamiza Elementary School, L.B. Johnson Middle School and Marie Hughes Elementary School were locked down around 2 p.m. The lockdowns had been lifted by 5 p.m.
Of the three schools, only L.B. Johnson was still in session at the time. There were about 100 students combined at the two elementary schools for after-school programs, according to a district spokesman.
Parents waited outside the middle school Wednesday for their children’s names to be read over the loudspeaker so they could take them home. Police blocked nearby streets and entrances to the school.
“When I first heard I was really worried,” said Mary Layson, who was picking up her 12-year-old son around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. “There have been lockdowns before, but nothing like this, not that bad.”
Sheriff Dan Houston said deputies, along with Homeland Security Investigations agents, were conducting surveillance around 2 p.m. Wednesday at a home in the 5100 block of Hattiesburg NW connected to Gallegos, who is suspected in a May homicide.
At some point, Gallegos showed up and got into an altercation with at least one of the law enforcement officers, BCSO spokesman Aaron Williamson said. He fled and then tried to break into four houses in the neighborhood to avoid the police search, according to Chief Deputy Greg Rees. He got into two of them. In the first, a woman was in the home. He told her he was shot, and she went to get the phone. When she returned, he was gone.
Police said a blood trail led them to each of the homes.
At the final home, in the 7500 block of Staunton Place NW, a BCSO SWAT team saw blood on the windowsill, and the window was open. They found Gallegos hiding in a closet there around 6:30 p.m., and Rees said he fought with deputies who arrested him. At least two women who were at the Hattiesburg home were detained and questioned by deputies, though Rees said he didn’t know if they were suspected of any crime.
“When we set a perimeter, I know it’s inconvenient, I see the cars lined up down the road. However, … you don’t find much worse suspects than that,” Rees said. “I know it affects the community. I know it’s a pain and we’re still dealing with it, but we have to deal with these situations in a way that we can contain.”
Kristan Galbraith was supposed to drop off her 2-year-old son with her mom, a teacher at LBJ Middle School, Wednesday night.
“When I was leaving to head over here, I was like, ‘I’m not sure I want my son in this area if they haven’t caught the guy,’ ” she said. “Now seeing this, I think I am going to rearrange my plans, I don’t want him over here. I don’t even want my mom over here.
“We’ve never had any problems. It’s one of those ‘leave your garage door unlocked’ kind of neighborhoods,” Galbraith said.
A bus transporting students home from Volcano Vista High School had to return the students to the school’s campus, according to Albuquerque Public Schools. Sports practices at nearby Mariposa Park were canceled while police searched it, according to APD.
Police believe Gallegos was involved in a homicide in May. In that case, 41-year-old Sergio Bickham was found shot dead in a tunnel under Interstate 40 near the Route 66 Casino Hotel, the same day he was kidnapped in broad daylight from a gas station, according to police reports.
Three people have been arrested in the case.
In June, Warren Esquirell, 40, was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping, conspiracy and felon in possession of a firearm in connection to the case.
Esquirell told police he was driving a GMC pickup truck and blocked in Bickham’s vehicle at the Valero Gas Station at 5600 Edith NE on May 10, according to the criminal complaint.
Two suspects then got out of another vehicle and used a Taser on Bickham. They pulled him from his truck, which the suspects then towed from the gas station.
Gallegos was arrested and charged with aggravated battery and kidnapping in relation to the homicide case in June and had been released on bail, according to court records. Deputies said he had an active warrant charging him with murder after “new evidence” surfaced in the case. Gallegos will face state charges for Wednesday’s incident, and he may face federal charges as well.
Charles Cordova, 43, was also arrested in June and charged with kidnapping in relation to the homicide.
Police said Bickham owed Gallegos for an ounce of meth at the time.