ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Three people are dead after Albuquerque police say an “extremely intoxicated” driver ran a red light and plowed into their vehicle early Sunday morning.
The victims have been identified as brothers Roberto Mendez, 27, Sergio Mendez-Aguirre, 23, and Grace Sinfield, 20. Sinfield was Mendez’s girlfriend.
Police say the driver was Jacob Jaramillo, 23. He is charged with three counts of vehicular homicide and was booked into jail Sunday night.
Albuquerque police officer Fred Duran said Jaramillo was traveling north on the Interstate 25 frontage road around 12:30 a.m. when he ran a red light and crashed into a vehicle traveling west on the I-40 frontage road. That vehicle, carrying Sinfield, Mendez and Mendez-Aguirre, rolled onto its roof.
“When a car is hit and it’s hit so violently that it flips, we do figure excessive speeds were a factor,” officer Simon Drobik said.
Mendez-Aguirre and Sinfield were pronounced dead at the scene. Mendez was transported to the hospital, where he died.
Jaramillo was also transported to the hospital for treatment of injuries. He was released hours later.
Drobik said responding officers noticed the usual signs of intoxication, including blood-shot eyes and the smell of alcohol. A criminal complaint reports that Jaramillo told officers he had consumed one beer and was on his way home. He performed poorly on sobriety tests and agreed to a blood test, which will determine his blood-alcohol level.
On Sunday evening, Jaramillo walked with difficulty down the sidewalk and street as he was escorted from a police unit to the Metropolitan Detention Center. He wore a thin white hospital gown and a medical boot on his right leg and winced in pain as an officer helped him out of the vehicle. He was silent as reporters asked him dozens of questions.
Online court records indicate that this is not Jaramillo’s first charge of DWI.
In October 2014, he was arrested in connection with the beating of an off-duty Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy who was leaving an Albuquerque nightclub.
Police said that the deputy called them to report that a man who had an outstanding warrant was in the nightclub.
About an hour later, two men jumped the deputy as he was leaving the club, punching him in the face and pushing him into a Dumpster, police said. The men fled the area in a white car but hit a gas meter and the building to which it was attached.
Jaramillo was identified as the driver, and police reported that he had a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.08 percent, police said at the time.
Court records show that he faced six charges in that incident, including first-offense DWI, aggravated battery, bribery of a witness and conspiracy to commit bribery of a witness.
All of those charges were dismissed without prejudice, meaning they can be filed again, in August because the state was “not ready to go forward,” according to court records.
Jaramillo was booked into jail Sunday night and given an initial $105,000 cash or surety bond, which means he could post a portion of that amount to get out of jail.
Meanwhile, family and friends of those killed gathered Sunday night.
Paris Franklin met Sinfield at Concordia University in Montreal, where Sinfield studied English for two years. Franklin and a group of friends gathered in Montreal to digest the news.
“We all kind of expected to be friends forever,” Franklin said in an interview over social media.
Sinfield moved to Albuquerque to pursue creative writing, Franklin said. She wanted to write television shows.
“She had a vibrant personality and never let bad things get her down,” Franklin said. “She was sassy, strong willed, loyal and hilarious – the kind of person you could go to and talk about anything.”
KOAT-TV spoke with Dianna Aguirre, Mendez and Mendez-Aguirre’s cousin, who described the two as loving, positive people.
“I can’t describe what I feel. We all just feel like it’s a dream and that we’re going to wake up and see our brothers,” Aguirre said. “And we know it’s not going to happen anymore.”
Both brothers were graduates of Albuquerque High School.
Posing in a photo with two children, in which he wears a University of New Mexico shirt, Mendez-Aguirre wrote, “What can make you more happy than making others happy? Nothing can.”
His family told KOAT-TV that he’d recently graduated from UNM with honors in chemistry and Mendez was attending UNM.
Mendez’s Facebook profile shows that he worked at High Finance, a restaurant located on Sandia Peak.
“Robert Mendez was a great and honorable guy,” his friend Robert Salas wrote on Facebook on Sunday. “It’s surreal to know he’s gone.”
In a press release identifying the victims, Drobik offered the department’s condolences to the trio’s families and friends and urged the community to do its part to fight drunken driving.
“Talk to your kids about drinking and driving. Share these tragic stories with them so they understand that driving is a big responsibility. If you see your friend or loved one trying to get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol STOP THEM. Do the right thing.”
Journal staff writer Nicole Perez contributed to this story.