ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Following several recent homicide arrests, the Albuquerque Police Department and city leaders addressed the topic in a news conference Thursday morning. City leaders are touting progress in solving homicide cases, at large.
APD says since the beginning of 2022; the department has either arrested or charged 47 suspects tied to homicides in the city. Of those 47 suspects, APD says 23 people face charges or were arrested for murders committed in 2022, and 24 were charged or arrested for murders committed in previous years. Four of the suspects are dead and three are considered fugitives.
“This is a powerful signal to criminals in our city that you will be held accountable,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said Thursday. “We will catch you and we are demonstrating that right now.”
APD Chief Harold Medina said the results reflect the hard work of homicide detectives and support staff, something he says the department has sought to add to increase homicide clearance rates. “I do not recall a short period of time where we had more homicide arrests than we’ve had in the previous five months,” he said.
APD currently has 12 homicide detectives. It is working to boost that number to 16 in 2022.
Mayor Tim Keller tied some of the success of APD’s recent homicide arrests to work completed in the city’s 2021 Metro Crime Initiative. The initiative broadly proposed 18 crime-fighting priorities, split between changes that the legislature could make and changes that could be made within existing department procedures.
“We have, I think, a sea change in what we’re seeing in terms of what we’re seeing with respect to arrests for homicides,” Keller said. “We also are working a lot more with victims … we have a victim’s advocate who helps families while detectives are working on their cases, that has gotten a lot of tremendous feedback and I think has led to a much smoother investigative process.”
Keller also highlighted increased efforts through “digital and social media,” saying APD is ramping up its expertise on analyzing digital material. One of the most recent homicide arrests came in part following a scan of social media information related to 19-year-old Isaac Martinez, who is now accused in the shooting of a 30-year-old fitness trainer.
Martinez was arrested earlier this month, and charged with shooting Jonathan Garza to death outside of a downtown bar and restaurant at 1st and Central in March 2022. APD says Garza was well-known in the fitness community and was defending his brother and attempting to break up a fight between people.
APD says detectives used surveillance video, cell phone data, and a suspect description to find Martinez on social media, eventually leading to his arrest. A 19-year-old, Martinez was arrested on May 11 in connection to the shooting case. He is facing an open count of murder.
Speaking broadly of the cases, APD Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock said of the 47 murder suspect arrested or charged this year, only about 9% are juveniles. However, Hartsock said that the department sees a “much higher” percentage of victims that are juveniles.
Almost 1/5th of the suspect is female, according to APD. Robberies remain one of the “biggest” categories of events that lead up to homicide cases, according to APD.
On May 5, APD arrested Samuel Jackson, 29 in a March 2021 homicide case. That homicide unfolded during an attempted robbery at the Imperial Inn Motel on Central near I-40.
APD says Jackson fatally shot Frank Brown, 46 during an attempted robbery in the motel parking lot. Investigators say Jackson was with a female accomplice during the March 4 robbery.
Watch full press conference below:
Jackson’s May 5 recent arrest came after APD’s use of digital evidence gathering methods following the arrest of his alleged female accomplice. According to a press release, APD says Jackson’s suspected accomplice, Jaeline Miera was arrested for another, different homicide case on March 17.
In the course of Jaeline Miera’s March 17 arrest, detectives seized and searched her cell phone. On that phone, APD says its “Digital Intelligence Team” identified an individual named “Jackson” who Miera was texting with around the time of the March 4 killing of Frank Brown.
APD later interviewed Jackson about the March 4 case. Investigators say Jackson “admitted to being present” at the time of Frank Brown’s killing.
Back in April, APD arrested Marcos Vigil, 48, charging him in a double homicide at a DK convenience store in the Foothills at Copper and Tramway. APD says on April 12, Vigil allegedly shot and killed both Kenneth Sweetwater Jr. and Dominic Sanchez following an argument in the store’s parking lot.
Detectives say surveillance video and witness accounts of the shooting helped lead them to Vigil. He’s facing two murder charges and two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
At Thursday’s news conference, Keller said the city is still working to tackle issues raised in the Metro Crime Initiative that were not addressed during the last legislative session. Keller said the city would be reconvening the initiative again in 2022.
“The Metro Crime Initiative has moved the needle in a number of fronts in the criminal justice system, but there’s a lot further to go,” Keller said. “With a 60 day legislative session coming in the fall, this summer is really when we have to get to work.”