LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) - A suspect donning a Halloween monster mask threatened employees at a Los Lunas Del Taco and took one of them hostage.
The hostage who survived the attack spoke exclusively to News 13. "The whole time he had the gun to my head, and I kept thinking I'm not going to see daylight again. This is it for me," Ariel Gallegos said she was crying and shaking as the masked robber threatened her and five other employees. She says he climbed in through the drive thru window just after 11:30 p.m. Saturday night. The restaurant is open 24 hours but locks its doors at night.
Police say once inside the man corralled employees into a corner, collected their cell phones and demanded Gallegos open a safe. He collected the money inside. While doing that a customer on the outside called police. They surrounded Del Taco, but police say the suspect refused to give up. "He took me by the neck and put the gun to my head," explained Gallegos. "That's when we started walking out." Using her as a human shield the masked-man made his way across the parking lot and shoved Gallegos into another employee's car.
Police were able to shoot out his tires as he sped toward Los Lunas High School. "As soon as we got the car started, he pushed me into the passenger seat and then he grabbed me again to put me in front of him just incase the cops shoot again," she said. The crook ditched his hostage and the car about a mile away from Del Taco. He ran toward the neighborhood nearby. Police put the neighborhood on lock down for more than five hours, calling out helicopters and K-9 units, but they've yet to track him down.
They are currently interviewing the five employees present when the robbery happened and say they have a few leads in the case. They were able to recover surveillance video, and think it's possible the robbery could be linked to a similar incident at an Albuquerque gas station that happened just days earlier.
Police also say they were shocked to see how calm the robber was and say this probably was not a random attack. "It seemed like it was very rehearsed," Lt. Carl Padilla, Los Lunas Police said. "He didn't seem to panic and even when people were coming up to the drive thru he was looking out the window and taking measures not to be seen."
Anyone with information is asked to contact Los Lunas Police.
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