Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal
The accused road rage killer who a Metropolitan Court judge said committed one of the “most wanton and atrocious acts in the history of this city” will likely remain behind bars for a while, with the judge continuing his bond at $650,000 cash only.
“If members of the motoring public receive gunfire as a result of slights on the highway, I don’t know who is safe,” Metropolitan Court Judge Chris Schultz said at Tony Torrez’s first court appearance Thursday.
Police arrested Torrez, 31, on Wednesday afternoon in the fatal shooting of 4-year-old Lilly Garcia on Interstate 40 in an apparent road rage incident the day before.
In his felony first appearance on Thursday, televised from the detention center, Torrez kept his head hung low and spoke only once, responding “no sir” to the judge’s question.
It was not the first time Torrez has been accused of wielding a gun in a road rage incident, and Schultz cited Torrez’s history, his pattern of failing to appear for hearings and his danger to the community as reasons for continuing the high bond.
New details of the tragic shooting emerged Thursday with the release of a criminal complaint.
Lilly’s father, Alan Garcia, told police that he picked up Lilly and his 7-year-old son from school Tuesday afternoon in his red Dodge truck. As he was heading to the grocery store off the southbound Coors exit, a driver – later identified as Torrez – cut across two lanes of traffic in front of him, according to the criminal complaint.
“Alan said he stated ‘(expletive) idiot’ to the driver of the Toyota,” the complaint states.
The road rage escalated.
Torrez approached Garcia on the driver’s side and continued to weave around the lanes as Garcia accelerated, according to the complaint.
Garcia told police that he tried to distance himself from the red Toyota as he heard two shots strike his vehicle.
Garcia said his son told him, “She’s bleeding,” referring to Lilly. He heard another shot as Torrez’s car approached the passenger side of his truck.
As Garcia slammed on his brakes to stop on the interstate, he was fired on again, according to the complaint.
When officers arrived where Garcia had stopped on the interstate’s median west of Unser, a woman was holding Lilly’s head and another woman was holding her feet, according to the complaint.
Lilly was taken to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where she died from a gunshot to the head.
Working off Garcia’s and other witnesses’ accounts, police released a detailed description of Torrez and his red Toyota with a spoiler on the back, tinted windows and University of New Mexico license plate late Tuesday.
Late Wednesday morning, homicide detectives got an anonymous tip from a caller who said that Torrez told others he shot the girl on Interstate 40 because the red truck tried to run him off the road.
The caller gave police Torrez’s address. Detectives tracked Torrez to Central and Sunset, and he was detained for questioning, according to a police spokeswoman.
Torrez confessed that he was responsible for the fatal shooting, said APD spokeswoman Celina Espinoza. He is charged with an open count of murder, child abuse resulting in death and several other charges.
When police executed a search warrant for Torrez’s house in the 7600 block of Saltbrush SW, they found the reddish-maroon Toyota they had been looking for in the garage and the gun they believe he used in the shooting.
Alma Sanchez lives next door to Torrez. She said he had several cars and she hadn’t seen the red Toyota, but as soon as she saw it come out of the garage, she knew he was the one accused of shooting Lilly.
“My husband talked to him a lot,” Sanchez said. “He didn’t seem like that kind of person who would do those things. My husband couldn’t believe it was the neighbor, but when he saw the picture, he was like, ‘Yeah, it’s him.’ ”
Not the first time
Torrez has a criminal history, and this wasn’t the first time he had been charged in a road rage incident.
In 2006, Torrez pulled a gun on a man in a parking structure who was angry because Torrez’s car was blocking the exit, according to the complaint.
The other driver told police he was able to disarm Torrez, causing the gun to drop to the ground, and put him in a chokehold. Three shots were fired in an ensuing struggle over the gun, and a friend of Torrez’s was struck in the forehead, but it was unclear if it was from a bullet.
The charges against Torrez were dismissed without prejudice – meaning they could be refiled – because the witness and victim did not cooperate with the state’s prosecutors, according to online court records. In online court records, Torrez is referred to as Tony Torres.
Several other cases against Torrez involve guns.
In 2008, his girlfriend told police he pointed a handgun at her and asked her if she “wanted to die,” according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court.
In another case, police found a handgun in his glove box after searching his car.
Torrez has faced charges in nine different misdemeanor or felony cases, according to online court records. All of those, except for two traffic violations, were dismissed due to insufficient evidence to prosecute or because the victim didn’t cooperate, according to Kayla Anderson, a spokeswoman for the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office.