Two people were arrested Thursday in connection with a shooting outside an Albuquerque baseball stadium that killed an 11-year-old boy and prompted the New Mexico governor to issue a controversial gun ban.
Jose Romero, 22, and Nathen Garley, 21, were being held for the Sept. 6 shooting after an Albuquerque Isotopes game in what appeared to be a case of mistaken identity, Police Chief Harold Medina said at a news conference.
Medina said the two men had argued with people during the ballgame and mistakenly opened fire on a truck carrying the boy and his family as it was leaving the parking lot because it closely resembled the truck of the intended targets.
“These cowards thought they were tough,” Medina said in an earlier social media post. “They killed an innocent child.”
Romero was taken into custody on Thursday evening. He already was wanted for failing to appear in court in connection with alleged drug dealing, Medina said.
Garley was already in custody when he was arrested in connection with the killing. He had been stopped by state police on Sept. 13 while returning from Arizona and authorities found a gun and about 100,000 fentanyl tablets in the car, state Police Chief W. Troy Weisler said at the news conference.
Further investigation linked him to the shooting, authorities alleged.
Garley's case has been assigned to the New Mexico Law Offices of the Public Defender, but the case is still in its early stages, spokesperson Maggie Shepard said Friday. She did not know if Romero would also have a public defender.
Police alleged that the men, both reputed gang members, pulled up in a car and attacked the pickup truck that was leaving the minor league game at Isotopes Stadium.
More than a dozen shots were fired, killing Froylan Villegas and leaving his cousin, Tatiana Villegas, paralyzed from the waist down, authorities said. A GoFundMe account for Tatiana Villegas' recovery has raised nearly $40,000 to date.
The boy’s mother and his infant brother were also inside the truck but weren’t injured, although two bullets barely missed the other child, police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said.
Romero and Garley had had an ongoing feud with another man and argued with him during the baseball game. The man drove a white Dodge pickup truck, Gallegos said.
The victims were in a very similar white Dodge truck that drove by the truck of the intended target, police said.
“It is our belief that these cowards mixed up the two vehicles and shot into the wrong vehicle,” the police chief said.
“Investigators used cellphone data and social media to track the movements of several individuals,” Gallegos said. “The day after the shooting, the man who was feuding with Romero sent him a message on Instagram indicating they shot at the wrong truck.”
The shooting, one of several involving children, prompted New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, to issue an emergency public health order days later suspending the right to carry firearms in public in and around Albuquerque. The measure was fought by Republican lawmakers and gun rights groups and a federal judge last week granted a temporary restraining order to block the order pending another court hearing next month.
U.S. District Judge David Urias said that the governor’s original order was likely to cause irreparable harm to people deprived of the right to carry a gun in public for self-defense.
Grisham then amended the order to apply only to public parks and playgrounds where children and their families gather.