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Family: UNM student shot and killed near home Tuesday morning

Juan Carlos Romero, 26 (Courtesy of Victoria Sype)

Juan Carlos Romero, 26 (Courtesy of Victoria Sype)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — University of New Mexico graduate student Juan Carlos Romero, who was found shot to death on the sidewalk across from the campus early Tuesday, was passionate about teaching and wanted to be a philosophy professor, his sister told the Journal on Wednesday.

Victoria Sype said her brother lived near the university, and her family believes Romero, 26, had gone to get something to eat or drink when he was shot and killed on Stanford just south of Central around 3 a.m.

Police have released few details on his death, including why he may have been killed.

Officer Fred Duran, a spokesman for the Albuquerque Police Department, said police are still waiting for the autopsy to be completed, and he would not say if Romero’s death is being considered a homicide.

“The circumstances leading up to his death are unknown at this time,” Duran said Tuesday evening. He said there were no updates Wednesday.

But Sype said detectives told her and her parents that Romero had been shot and killed.

Romero graduated from St. Pius X High School in 2008 and studied economics, philosophy and fine art at UNM, receiving a bachelor’s degree. On Facebook, former classmates and friends posted tearful tributes throughout the day Wednesday after hearing about his death.

Sype said her brother hoped to pursue a career in higher education and worked for a nonprofit in Santa Fe.

“He would substitute at charter schools and a few elementary schools covering various subjects,” Sype said. “His ultimate goal was to be a university professor teaching philosophy.”

Sype said her family is still in shock over her brother’s death, and she has trouble talking about him without breaking down in tears.

“He was a scholar, a dreamer, a goofball, but overall a brilliant young man,” she said. “Our primary concern is to understand what happened.”

Dianne Anderson, a UNM spokeswoman, said the dean of students will reach out to the family and community to offer support and assistance in the wake of Romero’s death.

A couple of blocks west of where Romero was shot, a man threatened a student with a gun Wednesday after the student refused to buy an internet router from him, according to an alert sent by UNM.

UNM police said there is no reason at this time to think the two incidents are connected.

This is the ninth homicide investigation in Albuquerque this year. Last year there were a total of 61 homicides in the city, a 20-year high.

U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez and numerous district attorneys, including Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez, are holding a news conference today to address what Martinez called in a news release a “violent crime epidemic” in New Mexico.

By Wednesday afternoon, the crime scene tape on Stanford was gone and a steady stream of bike-riding commuters and students could be seen heading to and from class.

Susam Sapkota, a freshman at UNM, lives on the street and was awakened early Tuesday by detectives asking if he heard anything.

He said it’s frightening to know that something like that happened so close to home, and it’s made him think twice about going out late.

“I feel totally scared now,” Sapkota said.

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