By Tara May
Record Staff Writer
At least three people are injured after a series of retaliatory gang shootings culminated in downtown Roswell late Wednesday afternoon.
The combination of wet roads and drive-by shootings contributed to two separate accidents caused by suspected gang-related drivers and the nonfatal shooting of an innocent man on South Main Street, all within minutes of 4 p.m.
Police believe the situation began near the intersection of East McGaffey Street and South Garden Avenue, when a silver Honda and possibly another vehicle began shooting from their vehicle shortly before 4 p.m.
The occupants of the silver Honda continued shooting as the driver sped toward South Cahoon Avenue and East McGaffey Street, police believe.
Officers caught up with the silver Honda at Second and North Main streets. The vehicle did not stop, but continued to speed away westbound on Second Street.
While attempting to cross North Richardson Avenue, the Honda struck another vehicle that was headed southbound on Richardson and had the right of way through the intersection.
Dexter resident Maria Rodriguez was driving the vehicle that was struck in the driver’s side by the Honda.
Emergency workers had to extricate Rodriguez from her car. She was transported to Eastern New Mexico Medical Center, where she remained Wednesday night.
She suffers from several broken bones and internal injuries.
The driver and three passengers of the silver Honda fled the scene of the accident on foot. Police apprehended and arrested the four occupants within blocks of the scene.
Conrad Nevarez, Chris Duran, George Ortiz and Steven Montez, the occupants of the car, face unknown charges, which could include fleeing the scene of an accident and shooting at or from a motor vehicle.
Several bullet holes were found in parked cars along the route taken by the silver Honda before it crashed at Second and Richardson. Several guns were found in the vehicle.
Minutes after that collision, a man and a woman pulled up to the police department in a blue car asking for help. The man had been shot in the side. He was the passenger in a car traveling northbound on South Main Street.
He had just completed the sign of the cross in front of St. Peter’s Church, a Catholic tradition when passing churches, when a bullet came through the passenger door and struck him in the fleshy part of his side.
Emergency personnel attended to the man’s wounds as the woman who had been driving the car clutched a little girl, who emerged from the backseat, in her arms.
Police said the man’s injury was very minor. Police are not yet releasing his name. He was not affiliated with the shootings.
“Just an innocent bystander who got in the way,” Roswell Police Officer Giles said.
Police are still investigating which vehicle was involved in the South Main Street shooting.
A few blocks away just after 4 p.m., another drive-by shooting caused a second traffic collision near the intersection of East Albuquerque Street and South Virginia Avenue.
A white Lincoln Towncar and a green SUV were shooting at each other when the green SUV struck another vehicle.
The driver of the second vehicle was taken to Eastern New Mexico Medical Center. His name is not yet being released.
The driver of the SUV, Fred Luna, was detained Wednesday at the police department for questioning. Police are awaiting a warrant to search his vehicle.
The white Towncar fled the scene.
All three shifts of the Roswell Police Department were called in to duty to handle the mayhem Wednesday afternoon.
Detectives stayed at the department late to continue investigations and bring together information from each of the scenes.
“In cases like this, the volume of information is so huge,” Detective Steve Halvorson said. “We have to sit down and begin piecing it all together.”
Gang-related shootings had quieted down in late December and early January, but several drive-by shootings occurred over the weekend and on Monday and Tuesday nights.
“It’s cyclical,” Officer Robert Giles said. “Gang violence is all retaliatory. We can’t predict when these people are going to decide to use this kind of force.”
He said the arrests made Wednesday could help deter the activity, especially because of the loss of cars and guns.
“It’s always great when we have crime scenes develop right in front of us,” Giles said. “When we can take away cars and guns from criminals, we take away their opportunity to commit crimes.”