Santa Fe police didn't charge local artist Mateo Romero in connection
with last week's shooting outside a north-side convenience store, his
attorney said Thursday, because he was acting in self-defense after a
panhandling couple tried to rob him.
Attorney Dan Cron said in a telephone interview that police later
told Romero he was targeted by a homeless couple who also had attempted
to scam other people and were known drug users.
Cron said his client gave police the following account of last Friday's incident:
Romero pulled up next to gas pumps at Allsup's, 305 N. Guadalupe
St., to fill up his Chevy Camaro at about 6:20 p.m. He opened the car's
trunk, where he had a zippered plastic bank bag containing cash, to get
money to pre-pay for his gas.
A homeless woman saw him get the money out and approached him at the
back of his car and asked if he could spare some money. Romero
"politely" declined, according to Cron.
After going into the store to pay for his gas, Romero was approached
by a man, who police later told him previously had worked with the
woman in panhandling scams.
Cron said the homeless man started yelling at Romero saying, "Do you get off talking ... to women, making them feel bad?"
Cron said his client tried to ignore the man as he made his way back
to his car. The homeless man, who Santa Fe police Sgt. Andrea Dobyns
said has not cooperated with the subsequent investigation, then
threatened to rob Romero, according to Cron.
The attorney said Romero reached into his car to get his gun. "He
was hoping by just brandishing [the gun] it would get the man to leave
him alone," Cron said.
Instead, the homeless man kept pressing the issue, Cron said. Police
have said the man at one point slammed his hand on the car hood.
Cron described Romero's single gunshot into the ground as a warning
shot and said a "fragment" of the bullet ricocheted up and hit a
bystander using a nearby pay phone.
The 24-year-old bystander was later treated and released at Christus
St. Vincent Regional Medical Center for an injury to his abdomen that
Cron said the man who was shot had become aggressive with Romero.
"At that point, Mateo decided to leave," Cron said. "He went home and,
after he had some time to collect his thoughts, he called police."
Police asked Romero to come in for an interview following Friday
night's call. "Mr. Romero was fully compliant, turned himself in and was
interviewed following the incident," Dobyns said earlier this week.
Dobyns explained that police were not filing any criminal charges
against Romero because of a lack of cooperating victims willing to
provide evidence of intent for an aggravated assault charge or for
negligent use of a weapon.
Cron said his client was simply acting in self-defense.
Dobyns said Santa Fe police planned to forward the case to the
District Attorney's Office for review. Cron said he had tried to obtain a
copy of the official report at the District Attorney's Office but that
as of Thursday no report had been filed there.
Romero is a well-known painter who makes realistic images of
ceremonial dances, as well as more abstract works such as lithographs
and mixed-media paintings. His work has been featured in the Santa Fe
Indian Market for 23 years, and one of his paintings was chosen as the
2008 Indian Market poster.
Contact Nico Roesler at 986-3089 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nicoroesler
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