Aug. 17—ESPAÑOLA — A man in Northern New Mexico is suspected of at least nine armed robberies throughout the region in less than a two-week span, and a Blake's Lotaburger employee was shot to death in the latest.
On Tuesday night the suspect — identified as Ricky Martinez Jr., 31 — is said to have robbed the Blake's on Paseo de Oñate in Española. Española police Chief Mizel Garcia confirmed an employee at the fast-food chain was shot and killed during the incident, and identified him as Cypress Garcia.
The chief said Cypress Garcia was in his twenties, and added he and Española Mayor John Ramon Vigil are trying to set up a time to meet with his family.
Cypress Garcia's family could not be reached for comment.
Tuesday's episode is one of seven robberies Martinez is suspected of throughout Española in recent days, Garcia said. He added the suspect is believed to have committed recent robberies in Santa Fe and Taos as well.
The chief said he could not disclose specific information on the other robberies Martinez is suspected of due to the ongoing investigation. However, he added there has been no set pattern to the robberies, which have taken place at varying times of day and at a number of different businesses.
However, an affidavit for Martinez's arrest filed Wednesday in Rio Arriba County Magistrate Court provided specific information on three of the Española robberies.
Martinez is suspected of robbing a Dandy Burger restaurant at about 8:04 a.m. on Aug. 9, a Shell gas station at about 5:40 p.m. on Aug. 10, and a Walgreens at about 9:33 p.m. on Aug. 11, according to the affidavit.
A criminal complaint regarding those specific robberies indicates Martinez used a silver revolver with a black handle in all three incidents.
Garcia said his department has been working with the FBI, New Mexico State Police and agencies in Santa Fe and Taos to find Martinez. He said Tuesday marked an escalation in the suspect's behavior.
"We need anybody who knows who this person is to contact us because he's already escalated to a point where he's taken a life," Garcia said.
He added the Crime Stoppers reward for information on Martinez has been increased from $1,000 to $5,000 due to Tuesday night's incident, and state police are making their presence in the city more visible due to the crime spree.
"I wanted our community to know that we are out there, we are on surveillance — we are looking for him," Garcia said.
Martinez is also wanted by the U.S. Marshals Services for "an undisclosed federal warrant," Vigil said in a news release.
"My heartfelt sympathies go out to the family [of Martinez's victim]," Vigil said. "The safety of the public is my first priority."
The search for Martinez Wednesday saw state police, U.S. Marshals and Española police conduct numerous house searches across the small city and its surrounding areas, Garcia said.
He added their efforts have resulted in unrelated arrests of people with outstanding warrants.
"Manpower right now isn't a problem," Garcia said.
Lt. Mark Soriano, a state police spokesman, said his department is committed to helping Española police find Martinez.
"We may wear a different uniform, but we all have the same goal," Soriano said. "Right now that's catching Mr. Martinez and taking him into custody."
Prior to this string of robberies, Martinez had been charged and convicted of escaping from the Rio Arriba County jail in July 2018. He was recaptured a short time later, according to court records.
In the past Martinez has also been convicted of burglarizing a car, robbery, aggravated assault upon a peace officer, and shooting at or from a motor vehicle.