ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An arrest warrant has been issued for a New Mexico man accused of driving the off-road vehicle that struck a seven-year-old and his father, killing the child. Sergio Almanza, 27, is accused of driving the vehicle from a bar before running a red light, striking Pronoy Bhattacharya and his father.
Police say they tried to execute that warrant Thursday afternoon but Almanza has fled and is now considered a fugitive.
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According to the arrest warrant, the Albuquerque Police Department received an anonymous tip stating the vehicle involved in the crash was possibly located in the backyard of a home on 65th Street. Officers arrived at the scene and were given permission from the residents of the home to look at the exterior of the vehicle.
Court documents state the vehicle reportedly had front-end damage consistent with evidence gathered from the scene of the crash as well as a missing fender and possible blood on the driver’s side wheel. Police state that a fender was left at the scene of the crash that contained a serial number identifying it as a 2018 Can-Am off-road vehicle.
Other anonymous tips reportedly advised authorities that the owner of the vehicle was Sergio Almanza and that he had allegedly been driving the vehicle from a Nob Hill bar leaving just minutes before the crash that killed Bhattacharya. According to the arrest warrant, Almanza was identified by surveillance videos to have been driving the vehicle and was accompanied by at least one passenger in the backseat driver’s side.
Police documents state that Almanza and two other men allegedly asked to keep the vehicle at an acquaintance’s house because “something bad happened.” On Wednesday, a tipster came forward telling detectives while he was at Grados Tire Shop on Old Coors, he overheard someone telling the owner that Almanza was responsible for the fatal crash.
Police went back to where they found the off-road vehicle and the friend told them Almanza had admitted to hitting the kid when he dropped off the vehicle. Photos on Almanza’s Facebook page also linked him to the vehicle. Police tried serving the warrant at his Belen home Thursday afternoon, they say he’s on the run.
Police say evidence on the scene shows the light was red for about seven seconds before the vehicle drove through the intersection and that the driver tried to brake about 20 feet prior to the collision but after the crash fled immediately. The vehicle was reportedly going about 50 miles an hour.
Almanza is accused of homicide by vehicle, great bodily harm, leaving the scene of an accident with great bodily harm, and tampering with evidence. He has a history of traffic violations. He posted on his Facebook page this week to “stop pointing fingers at him.”
Meanwhile, in an effort to keep future River of Lights pedestrians safe, the city is now having them use the Central-Tingley underpass instead of the crosswalk. Attendees can park at Tingley Beach and follow signage along the bike path that runs under Central. APD says police service aides will also be out to help direct foot and vehicle traffic.
APD is working with New Mexico State Police to find Almanza and is asking anyone with details to call 242-COPS or report anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers at (505)843-STOP. According to court records, this is Almanza’s first criminal case. He does have a history of traffic violations including no driver’s license or proof of insurance.