‘Terrified’ ex-wife of former police officer had got restraining order against him weeks before he killed her

Amber Rodriguez was shot by Elias Huizar, who also killed his teenage girlfriend and kidnapped their son

Dan Gooding
Thursday 25 April 2024 19:32 BST
Ex-cop killed ex-wife and girlfriend before killing himself

A mother who was shot dead by her former police officer ex-husband as she picked up their child from school was “terrified” of him in the weeks leading up to her death.

Amber Rodriguez and Elias Huizar’s lengthy divorce case ended around a year before Monday’s fatal attack in Washington.

The woman who was appointed as the guardian in their case spoke with NBC News on Wednesday, explaining that Ms Rodriguez had obtained a restraining order against the killer in recent weeks.

Tara Symons said that the 31-year-old, who died outside William Wiley Elementary School in West Richland, had safety concerns throughout the divorce proceedings, which began in late 2020.

"She was terrified. She was terrified," Ms Symons told the outlet, stating she had spoken to the victim around two weeks ago.

Despite the protection order, Ms Symons said the mother was still afraid.

Amber Marie Rodriguez was ‘terrified’ of her ex-husband Elias Huizar, who killed her in West Richland, Washington
Amber Marie Rodriguez was ‘terrified’ of her ex-husband Elias Huizar, who killed her in West Richland, Washington (Sourced/Yakima Police Department)

"She knew how he was and that it was just paper," she said, explaining that Ms Rodriguez had been working as a paraeducator at the school to keep an eye on her son.

The nine-year-old ended up witnessing his father shooting his mother at school pick-up on Monday afternoon.

"This poor family… They tried everything to stay safe from him. And so many systems failed this family," Ms Symons told NBC.

On Monday, Richland school district superintendent Dr Shelley Redinger explained that Huizar was hiding behind a “portable area” waiting for his ex-wife, who he knew would be there.

“Our district has suffered a profound loss in the passing of Amber Rodriguez, a remarkable paraeducator at William Wiley Elementary where she worked since September 2022,” Richland school district said in a statement on Wednesday. “Our deepest condolences go out to Amber’s family during this difficult time.”

Dr Redinger told reporters on Wednesday that the district was supporting both of the couple’s children, while also seeking to support other students who were there when Ms Rodriguez was killed.

Hours after Ms Rodriguez was shot, the West Richland Police Department found another victim – Huizar’s 17-year-old girlfriend Angelica M Santos.

He had killed her at his home and taken his one-year-old son Roman, before going on the run. It was believed he was headed for Mexico and was spotted in Portland, Oregon, on Tuesday.

Huizar later killed himself in a confrontation with state troopers in Oregon
Huizar later killed himself in a confrontation with state troopers in Oregon (West Richland Police Department)

Troopers began chasing Huizar when they saw him driving southbound on Interstate 5 near Eugene, Oregon, at about 3pm that day. The disgraced officer sustained a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head and died.

The little boy was taken to safety, officers said.

Huizar was an officer with the Yakima Police Department, around 70 miles from West Richland, between June 2013 and 2021.

He had been due in court on Monday to face child rape allegations relating to two underage girls. He had pleaded not guilty to the charges in February.

One of his victims was Ms Santos, officials said on Wednesday, whom he had met while working as a substitute teacher and school resource officer in Yakima.

Huizar allegedly got her pregnant when she was 15.

Then earlier this year, Ms Santos woke up to find Huizar sexually assaulting a 16-year-old friend staying at their home.

Ms Santos’ mother, Tiffany Penaloza, told NBC that her daughter had kept details of her relationship a secret until the baby was six months old.

She told the outlet that, while things started out well, they started “slowly going downhill” after Huizar’s arrest earlier this year.

He became controlling, the mother said, and insisted on listening in to her phone conversations using an Apple Airpod. A few days before she died, she refused to do this while on the phone with her grandmother.

"That made him mad,” Ms Penaloza said. “He called her at least a minimum of 20 times back to back to back to back because she wasn’t answering his calls.

"I was like, ‘Are you sure it’s a good idea for you to go home?’ She goes, ‘No, I talked to him and he’s still mad, but he’s not mad where he’ll do anything.’"

Despite Huizar’s behaviour, Ms Santos stayed because she was afraid of breaking up their family, Ms Penaloza added.

“She had this vision for her son that he’d have this perfect little family," she continued. "And so as much as she was not OK with everything, she wanted to be able to give her son everything that she didn’t have. So she put up with a lot of things that were not OK."

Now, their little boy has been left without either parent.

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