Albuquerque police have arrested three men allegedly responsible for shooting 11-year-old Froylan Villegas, whose death earlier this month led New Mexico’s governor to ban all gun owners from carrying firearms in Albuquerque and the surrounding area.
The Albuquerque Police Department announced the arrests of Jose Romero, 22, and Nathan Garley, 21, in a Thursday news release, which detailed their alleged involvement in the shooting.
Later reports revealed that a third suspect, Daniel Gomez, 26, was taken into custody on Friday.
The suspects are accused of shooting at least 14 rounds at a 2019 white Dodge truck driven by the Villegas family, which they had mistaken for a different white Dodge pickup.
The incident occurred at around 9 p.m. on Sept. 6, as the Villegas family was leaving a baseball game at Isotopes Stadium.
The suspects, according to the APD, were at the game when they spotted a man with whom Romero had an ongoing feud. That man, along with the family members who were with him, got into his white Dodge pickup, but did not immediately leave the parking lot. When the Villegas family left the parking lot, the suspects mistook their vehicle for the other truck.
Police say the suspects drove alongside the Villegas’ truck in a black Dodge Durango and one of the passengers, standing in the sunroof, fired several rounds at them.
“Froylan Villegas, who was in the front passenger seat of the truck, and Tatiana Villegas, who was driving the truck were each struck several times by gunshots,” the news release said. “Froylan Villegas died as a result of his wounds and Tatiana Villegas, 23, was critically injured and remains in the hospital.”
“Froylan’s mother and infant brother were in the back seat of the truck and were not injured. However, the investigation revealed that two projectiles barely missed the infant, who was sitting in a car seat behind Froylan.
The shooting, which left Tatiana Villegas paralyzed from the waist down, was originally believed to have been the result of road rage, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
“These cowards thought they were tough. They killed an innocent child,” APD Chief Harold Medina said in the news release, thanking APD homicide detectives and crime scene investigators for their work to bring justice to the victims and their families.
Froylan Villegas’ death was cited by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham when she declared a public health emergency the next day, in which she suspended all concealed and open carry licenses in the city of Albuquerque and the surrounding Bernalillo County.
Our detectives arrested a suspect for the murder of 11-year-old Froylan Villegas. With help from the public, investigators determined this was a case of mistaken identity. These cowards thought they were tough. They killed an innocent child. pic.twitter.com/d5d8eo1bC1
— APD Chief of Police (@ABQPoliceChief) September 22, 2023
The ban was rolled back less than two weeks later after local law enforcement refused to comply with the order and Republican lawmakers called for Grisham’s impeachment. Certain restrictions, however, still apply.
The three suspects, Romero, Garley and Gomez, have since been taken into custody.
Romero, who was arrested Thursday, was already wanted for failure to appear in court in relation to alleged drug dealing, according to the Associated Press.
Garley happened to already be in custody after having been arrested on Sept. 13, when police discovered around 100,000 fentanyl pills in his car.
Both men were armed during their arrests, AP reported, noting that they are “reputed gang members.”
Gomez was arrested Friday in connection with the shooting. Police have not yet released the details of his arrest.
A GoFundMe appeal for the Villegas family had raised more than $40,000 by Saturday afternoon.