Jun. 25—The Bike Coop owner Amanda Batty met Joe Garcia in 2020 when he came in to get a Strider for his 5-year-old son. He told her bikes "transformed his childhood," and he wanted to pass that on to his three children.
Next, it was a bike for his daughter, Isabel, and Garcia spent the last year paying it off piece by piece, painting the frame alongside his daughter. Batty said the process was "a different kind of special."
On June 11 the job was done and she watched the 12-year-old girl pedal away.
"She's just laughing and hollering and Joe was like, 'thank you' — he just lit up," Batty said. "I just came to the back and cried for a minute... It was huge to watch."
Two days later, Garcia, 40, was found shot to death a few blocks from his Southeast Albuquerque home.
Officers responded around 6:40 a.m. when an employee of Central New Mexico Community College reported a man lying at the corner of Buena Vista and Coal. Garcia was pronounced dead at the scene. Neighbors told police they heard gunfire hours earlier.
The custom-built bike, a quilt made of his late-mother's clothing and other sentimental items were stolen from his apartment. It is unclear if the crimes are connected.
An Albuquerque police spokesman did not respond to questions on the case.
Batty called news of Garcia's death devastating.
"You think bikes are going to save the world, right? Everything that we're doing here now is built on that foundation," Batty told the Journal on Friday. "And then something magic happens — something that's been in the works for so long — and less than 48 hours later it's gone... That kind of takes the train off the tracks."
As Garcia's family grieves and police work the case, Batty said the shop is offering a sizeable cash reward — "no questions asked" — for the bike's return.
"Finding Joe's killer is really, really important but we're going to let the police do their job," she said. "We want Isabel's bike — this is the last piece of her dad that she has. This is something that is incredibly special and that they worked together on and I think that she should be able to have that."
Relatives are offering a separate reward for the quilt and any information on the case.
Lisa Urban, Garcia's sister who sewed the quilt for his son, said she can't imagine who would do something like this to her brother, a family man with no known enemies.
"It makes me mad because somebody thought that they have the authority to go over there and take somebody's life, and then it makes me sad because they took his life — and he didn't deserve it," she said.
Urban said, aside from completing the bike, her brother had just gotten a job as a plumber with a company he had been applying to for a long time. She said he was funny and adventurous.
She said he was always willing to try anything once and gave it 100%, whether it was "triking" — riding a tricycle down a steep mountain — or cooking recipes seen on TikTok. Or building a bike for Isabel.
"His kids were his world," Urban said. "He always felt like he failed his kids but everything that he did, it was for his kids. And that's what I used to tell him and he was like, 'but I could do better' and I was like, 'everybody could do better.' He always tried to be perfect for his kids."
She said she will miss her brother's phone calls to check in, his laughter full of joy and a smile that "brought out the shine in him."
Batty said Garcia left his mark on her and the shop.
"Joe was really, really special. I wish that I had the right words to convey how important he was. I think that people get overlooked, people get underestimated. Joe was a force," she said. "He showed up, he was just that type of guy."
Batty said he set an example she wished more parents would follow.
"If we had parents who showed up that consistently for their kids every day, the world would be a vastly different place," she said.
Garcia's first visit to the shop in 2020 — for the Strider bike for Adam — inspired Batty and her colleagues to start a Christmas giveaway to parents who may not able to afford bicycles for their kids.
"We realized that Strider is the first point where a parent can actually say, 'hey, kiddo, we like bikes, you like bikes, look at this,'" she said. "It's fascinating and it's tragic that Joe coming into the shop was the person who inspired that... To date, we've given almost 50 Striders away."
Batty said come December, the tradition will live on.
Reward offered for bike, tips on case: The Bike Coop is offering a cash reward "no questions asked" for the return of Isabel's bike. The shop can be reached at (505) 265-5170 and is located at 120 Yale Blvd SE
Relatives are offering a reward for information leading to an arrest or the recovery of items stolen from Garcia's home. Tipsters can contact Crime Stoppers at 505-843-STOP (7867), or call APD's non-emergency number at 505-242-COPS (2677).