ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said she takes part of the blame for the man accused of killing a Rio Rancho police officer being out on the streets at the time.
Before the shooting, 28-year-old Andrew Romero had already been in and out of jail since the age of 18 for all sorts of crimes, including some violent ones.
Yet, in his most recent case, the District Attorney’s office agreed to cut a deal with him.
Critics are frustrated given that his criminal history included an arrest for shooting and killing a man 10 years ago.
“As each incident that these folks are involved in comes to pass, it’s more of a clear message to society in general, the legal system specifically, that they are going to reoffend,” said Rio Rancho Police Capt. Paul Rogers.
“Certainly I’ll accept part of that blame,” Brandenburg said.
Romero was in jail in January on charges including armed robbery, aggravated assault, drug trafficking and car theft, but Brandenburg said her office agreed to a plea deal.
That deal had Romero out of jail, set to report to Delancy Street, a drug rehabilitation center near Espanola.
Romero never showed up.
Instead, police say he was armed with a gun, robbing eight Albuquerque stores just months after getting out.
“Maybe we should have been more diligent in making sure he stayed in jail until Delancy Street picked him up,” Brandenburg said. “We could have asked for the maximum sentence. Hindsight is 20/20. I wish we had.”
Brandenburg said all of his criminal offenses seemed to be related to drugs, which is why she hoped going to rehab would address the problem.
She also said that at the time her office was working to resolve cases before new court rules went into effect.
Those rules would mean that any cases not taken care of within a certain timeframe could have been in danger of being dropped entirely.
Still, she said she now regrets the plea deal.
“The facts make this a wrong decision, what happened in the future,” Brandenburg said. “But we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.”
Brandenburg also said the supervisor for the attorney assigned to Romero’s case was never told about Romero’s prior voluntary manslaughter conviction.
Romero will likely never be on the streets again.
He faces life without parole for murder charges and time for a federal gun charge.