Josette Otero is at the scene where her cousin was shot dead in an alleged traffic incident last week. She is holding photos of her son, father, nephew and cousin, all of whom have fallen victim to violence in Albuquerque. (Roberto E. Rosales / )
Eighteen months after Josette Otero’s 15-year-old son was shot while driving on the West Side of Albuquerque, her cousin was shot while he was taking his 7-year-old grandson to school.
And between those two murders – both believed to be the result of road anger – her nephew Elias Otero was killed in an attempted car theft. There were no arrests in this case.
“Sometimes I feel cursed,” said Otero.
Otero said in the months after her son Kyle Martinez turned 22 these days, she says her daughter mostly drives her around seeing other cars on the road – especially those with dark tinted windows – scares her.
“It feels like I’m having a heart attack, I mean my whole body just shut down like that,” Otero said. “I can’t stand being in a grocery store. I just can’t stand being indoors. It just takes a really bad toll on me to go anywhere. “
When she found out her cousin Nelson Gallegos Jr. was killed on October 6 – his birthday – Otero said she collapsed and cried.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I thought not Nelson… he’s a godly man. He has no mean bone in his body. “
The number of homicides in Albuquerque skyrocketed in 2021 – and exceeded the record years earlier.
Gallegos, who was killed in a suspected traffic accident outside a cafe on Central near Rio Grande, is one of the youngest victims. No one was arrested in the case, but last week police released a photo from a surveillance camera that they believe shows the gray pickup truck the suspect was driving.
Now Otero is trying to help other family members, including Gallegos’ sister, prepare for the next steps.
“I’m trying to share everything I’ve been through and have been through with her that I can try to help her with,” Otero said. “It’s not an easy path, and especially when you don’t know that there are resources out there. You don’t know where to turn and I’ve been like that for a good year. “
Josette Otero touches a sticker with the smiling face of her 15-year-old son that she has on her car. Kyle Martinez was killed in April 2020. (Roberto E. Rosales / )
It took more than a year for a suspect to be charged with Martinez’s death.
Kevin Metzgar, 20, was charged in June with first degree murder, heavy battery, shooting at or from a motor vehicle, and tampering with evidence. He is also charged with possession with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl in one apparently unrelated case.
His lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.
According to a pre-trial detention motion filed in the 2nd Judicial District Court, the passenger in Martinez’s black Ford Mustang told investigators that as they exited the interstate on Unser NW they noticed a silver Audi was following them. Martinez had his study permit, said Otero.
When they stopped at a red light, “a few words were exchanged between the occupants of both vehicles,” says the application.
“The driver, who was later alleged to be the accused, waved a rifle pistol identified as a micro-Draco and fired multiple shots at the Mustang, which wounded and killed (Martinez) the passenger,” the motion reads. “Several people witnessed this incident, including when the silver Audi fled the scene.”
Martinez was taken to the hospital where he died. His co-driver was also injured.
It is unclear how detectives suspect Metzgar, but he was also wanted in connection with a similar case that occurred about a month earlier.
On March 13, 2020, an Albuquerque police lieutenant was driving near Corona and Ouray NW when he saw muzzle flash and heard a shot as a silver Chevrolet SUV and a silver Audi pulled up side by side. Then the lieutenant “heard numerous shots and saw the driver, later identified as Eric Asbury, get out and run to the rear of the SUV and scream,” He’s shooting at me in the silver Audi, “according to a criminal complaint filed with the Metropolitan Court .
The lieutenant tried to stop the Audi sedan, but it sped away and crashed into a Toyota Tacoma.
Asbury informed police that the man who shot him had left a nearby marijuana dispensary and the store manager identified him as a butcher. An arrest warrant was issued, but Metzgar was not arrested until two days after Martinez’s death. He pleaded guilty of grievous bodily harm with a lethal weapon in April and was sentenced to an actual prison term of one year.
In the pre-trial detention motion filed in the Martinez case, prosecutors mention the Asbury case and say that “at the time the defendant was committing this crime, he was on the street while an active warrant was being held that he shot another person at scary similar way. “
Metzgar is held in jail while awaiting trial over Martinez’s death.
Otero was still stumbling from her son’s death when her nephew was shot dead at her husband’s side in February in a neighborhood near Central and 98th SW. Police found that 24-year-old Elias Otero – a former correctional officer at the Metropolitan Detention Center – was shot multiple times. He died on the scene.
Police said witnesses described the shooting as a car theft. A car was found crashed and abandoned a few blocks away. No one was arrested in that case.
For Josette Otero, the death of her family members in the last 18 months is the latest tragedy in a life that was marked by violence before she was born.
While her mother was pregnant, her father Joseph Milcher was killed in a fight in 1967 when he and two other men were stopped to change a flat tire. Otero said the family are moving across the country and stopping in Albuquerque. They finally stayed.
More recently, she and Elias Otero’s mother have joined others who have lost loved ones to violence. They founded the New Mexico Crusaders for Justice group on Facebook and attended a rally in Civic Plaza in September to commemorate the victims of the violence.
They advocate changes to the pre-trial detention system and other criminal law laws, as well as more education and opportunities for children, Otero said.
She wears a sweatshirt with her son’s face and Mustang on the front and stickers with his name and likeness on her car.
“I have to be his voice, I have to be out there, I have to do him justice, and I’ll fight until that happens,” Otero said. “I have to fight for Nelson too because it’s the same. He died the same way by a coward … My son didn’t deserve what he got, and neither did Nelson. “