Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office says 5 arrested in gang-related activity

·3 min read

Oct. 20—A recent increase in violent crime prompted the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office and other agencies to launch a crackdown late last week on what local law enforcement officials call gang-related activity, particularly on the city's south side.

Sheriff's deputies arrested five people Friday while serving 13 warrants to people charged with crimes tied to drugs, violence, burglary and sexual assaults, as well as traffic infractions. Among those apprehended during the operation were Joe Ray Louis Casias, 25; Myriah Martinez, 20; Ronnie Montano, 44; and Pedro Cardoso, 26.

The fifth arrest was that of 17-year-old Elijah Aguirre, who was accused of bringing a gun on campus at Capital High School.

Deputies say Aguirre also was involved in a drive-by shooting Sept. 30 near Paseo del Sol and Jaguar Drive that led to lockdowns at Capital High and several other schools in the area. Two women and a teen boy were arrested in connection with the incident. One of the women died earlier this month from the effects of an overdose she suffered while in custody.

According to a statement of probable cause, three people in a white Nissan sedan had shot at Aguirre and another teen, who were traveling to school in a black Acura. Several witnesses told deputies the teens in the Acura might have fired back.

"It is known that these students are involved in gang activity and have been involved in recent shootings in the area," the statement said.

During a search of the Acura in the school's lot, deputies found a .40-caliber handgun, according to the statement. Aguirre was charged with unlawful possession of a handgun on school property and unlawful possession of a handgun by a person under 19. He also faced a bench warrant tied to a previous case that is not public because he is a juvenile.

The operation was executed in collaboration with the Santa Fe Police Department, the Española Police Department, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI.

Santa Fe police Deputy Chief Paul Joye said the agency welcomes assistance from the sheriff's office and any other law enforcement agencies that want to aid in tackling the uptick in violent crime.

"We've been working with the sheriff's office during their warrant roundups," Joye said. "We're open to any agency that wants to come in and help."

Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza cited several recent drive-by shootings and drug activity in the city and said the crime increasingly is spreading to other areas of the county.

In addition to the Sept. 30 incident, a drive-by shooting in southwestern Santa Fe left a car riddled with bullet holes Sept. 25. On Sept. 24, a man was shot in the foot at a Motel 6 on Cerrillos Road after refusing to hand over his wallet. In mid-September, 18-year-old Angelo Hernandez was arrested in connection with a Sept. 8 drive-by shooting, also on the city's southwestern edge.

"I think we've been dealing with this issue for quite a while now," Mendoza said. "There's some concern that it's getting out of control.

"We mainly concentrate our efforts in rural parts of the county," he added, "but I think we've identified that something needed to be done, and we wanted to be proactive in those areas where the crime is occurring."

Mendoza said much of the crime is perpetuated by "youth gangs," such as the Southside Goons, but he noted the groups have some adult members.

"I think there's maybe a lack of resources for youth now and a lack of activities, and I think they're looking at other avenues," he said.

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