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APD arrests 2 men for murder of 11-year-old Froylan Villegas in case of mistaken identity

Update on homicide case
September 21, 2023

ALBUQUERQUE – APD homicide detectives arrested two men today for the shooting that killed 11-year-old Froylan Villegas and critically injured his cousin, Tatiana Villegas.

The suspects -- Jose Romero, 22, and Nathan Garley, 21 – are accused of shooting at least 14 rounds from a black Dodge Durango into a 2019 white Dodge truck, thinking they were shooting at another man they were targeting as a result of an ongoing rivalry. However, they shot at the wrong truck. The man they were targeting drives a white, 2019 Dodge Crew Cab, Laramie Model pickup. But they shot at the truck with the Villegas family, which was a white, 2019 Dodge Crew Cab, Limited Model pickup.

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. 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.

“These cowards thought they were tough. They killed an innocent child,” APD Chief Harold Medina said. “Thanks to our homicide detectives, investigative support detectives, crime scene investigators, digital intelligence team and everyone who put so much effort into solving this case. The APD team cares about victims and their families and we will do whatever it takes to bring justice.”

“The chief and I personally talked with Froylan's family about our commitment to track down and jail those responsible for this terrible act,” Mayor Tim Keller said. “We also asked everyone in our city to help, and today APD demonstrated what they have over the last year: if you commit homicide in our town, we will find you, arrest you and demand full justice for victims and our community.”

The shooting occurred shortly before 9 p.m. on Sept. 6, 2023, in the area of Avenida Cesar Chavez, just west of University Blvd., after the Villegas family members left a baseball game at Isotopes Stadium.

Homicide detectives learned the suspects were also at the game that night. Jose Romero had an ongoing feud with another man, which escalated that night when they saw each other at the game. Video surveillance shows Romero and Garley leaving the stadium shortly after a group that included the man that was feuding with Romero.

That man, who was with family members, left in his white Dodge pickup, but did not immediately leave the parking lot. Video surveillance showed that man drive past the white Dodge pickup owned by the Villegas family and was still in a parking spot.

The Villegas family left the parking lot shortly after that, heading westbound on Avenida Cesar Chavez and through the University Blvd intersection just minutes before 9 p.m.

Romero and Garley were in a black Dodge Durango that drove alongside the white Dodge Ram pickup with the Villegas family inside. One of the passengers in the Durango stood outside of the sunroof and fired several rounds at the truck, thinking they were shooting at the truck being driven by the man they were targeting as part of their feud. The Dodge Durango continued westbound after the shooting and went northbound on I-25.

Detectives received several tips after a description of the black Dodge Durango was released through Crime Stoppers the day after the shooting. Several of the tips identified the suspects and provided detectives with leads. Investigators used cell phone data and social media to track the movements of several individuals. The day after the shooting, the man who was feuding with Romero sent him a message on Instagram indicating they shot at the wrong truck.