Friends say Earl “Payaso” Roybal was on a motorcycle ride with his girlfriend Sunday afternoon when he stopped at a West Side carwash to clean his Harley-Davidson.
He was drying his motorcycle when another customer pulled into the Hose It carwash on Coors near Quail NW, said John Trujillo, who rides in the Onagers Motorcycle Club with Roybal.
It’s still unclear what happened next, but the 59-year-old Roybal was shot and killed.
Trujillo said Roybal’s girlfriend told him another customer was impatient waiting for him to finish and the two men argued. Then, she said, the other man shot Roybal three times.
“She was there; she witnessed the entire thing,” Trujillo said. “It turned into an argument about a silly stall. There were plenty of witnesses and cameras there, so he decided to submit and waited for the cops.”
Police have released few details about the shooting, and haven’t named the alleged gunman. Although officer Fred Duran, a spokesman for the Albuquerque Police Department, said Sunday evening that a person was “detained,” he said Monday that no one had been arrested or charged.
“We will provide this case as a whole to the District Attorney’s Office for a final review and prosecution as they see fit with the evidence provided to them,” Duran wrote in an email. “We have interviewed individuals to include witnesses and a person of interest. Everyone involved has been fully cooperative with police.”
He didn’t respond to any questions about the case, including whether Roybal was armed or why the alleged gunman has not been charged.
Trujillo said he had planned to meet up with Roybal and another friend later that night to continue riding “wherever the wind takes us.”
He said that instead, he and the other riders joined Roybal’s family at the carwash and then at the University of New Mexico Hospital.
That’s where Roybal died.
“I was just devastated; I couldn’t believe it,” Trujillo said. “I’m just in shock. He’s a brother to us, and we care about this guy.”
Roybal, a father of three with several grandchildren, had started riding with the Onagers – a motorcycle club that supports military veterans – several years ago. Trujillo said Roybal had fought in the Vietnam War and worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs helping veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
His road name was “Payaso,” which means clown in Spanish.
“He’s a jokester,” Trujillo said. “If you’re having a bad day, this guy has a way of cheering you up, getting you to smile; he brings the spirits up in everybody.”
Hundreds of people parked their motorcycles and gathered in front of the car wash Monday evening for a candlelight vigil organized by the New Mexico Motorcycle Rights Organization.
“Justice for Payaso” the crowd chanted before saying the pledge of allegiance to the flag.
Raymond Gallegos, the vice chairman of the The New Mexico Motorcycle Rights Organization, said although they regularly rally to prevent motorcyclists from dying in crashes, they’re now stepping up to support Roybal’s family and friends.
“To be shot over a carwash bay, that’s just shocking,” Gallegos said. “As far as for the motorcycle club, we’re in shock about losing a member of our community.”