The teenager accused of shooting and killing an Albuquerque mail carrier will be charged federally.
It’s a trend seen in past cases, in which the state drops charges so the feds can prosecute the case first.
Xavier Zamora, 17, is accused of shooting and killing USPS carrier Jose “Pepe” Hernandez on his mail route Monday afternoon while trying to break up a dispute between Zamora and his mother at their home on 98th and Tower.
Police reportedly found Zamora hiding out Wednesday night in a home about five minutes from where Hernandez was shot.
In speaking with a nearby neighbor, KRQE News 13 was told teens are constantly coming and going from the property.
“I kind of suspected, those of us here, suspected that something was eventually going to happen and it did,” an anonymous neighbor said. “It was just a matter of time that something was eventually going to happen.”
That neighbor says he’s always wondered where the parents of these kids are, and is unclear about what the relationship is between the teens and the few adults he’s seen on the property.
“I’ve seen a lot of comings and goings, different teenagers that have come in and out,” he said. “As far as different cars. A lot of transients. They’re young.”
On Thursday, Zamora’s murder charge from the District Attorney’s office was nulled without prejudice and officials said he’ll be federally charged.
“The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act does allow for the feds to step in and take cases like these where there’s some federal nexus. So here, there’s a federal postal worker,” UNM Assistant Law Professor Maryam Ahranjani said.
While the U.S. Attorney’s Office isn’t saying what his charges are, Ahranjani said a case that goes to federal prosecutors first could mean enhanced penalties.
“There is a climate of just being a little tougher on defendants,” she explained. “Because of the sentencing guidelines and other procedures in place, it’s a little bit tougher for the defense to make their case in federal court.”
The most recent example of this was the case of now-convicted cop killer Davon Lymon. He was first charged federally in 2015 for being a felon with a firearm and selling heroin to undercover officers, then was convicted and given 38 years behind bars. That’s on top of what he’ll get for killing APD Officer Daniel Webster when he’s sentenced on murder charges.
The DA’s office can still re-file murder charges against Zamora later. KRQE News 13 asked if that was their plan, but they said they won’t comment on that until the federal case is over.
The U.S. Attorney’s office says it only takes over cases that qualify under federal jurisdiction. They are still not saying what charges Zamora faces because he is a minor.