In the midst of a multi-person physical altercation June 28, Nicholas Kaye, 17, lowered his shotgun at the orders of an off-duty Santa Fe County Sheriff’s deputy. Daniel Suarez, 21, and Jonathan Avila-Cisneros, 18, disregarded the order and allegedly opened fire with a high-powered rifle, and possibly a pistol, killing Kaye and spraying bullets in the direction of a crowd that had gathered.
Kaye, of Ohkay Owingeh, died either at the scene or while his friends drove him to the Española Hospital from the shooting scene, at the Giant gas station at 1616 North Riverside Drive. Avila-Cisneros and Suarez allegedly sped away from the scene, south on Riverside Drive, before being stopped by Española Police Officer Ernest Saucido, who initially stopped them for speeding, Española Police Detective George Martinez wrote in a criminal complaint filed in Rio Arriba County Magistrate Court. They were arrested at the traffic stop.
Martinez states in the complaint that after he arrived on scene he reviewed the security footage, provided by the gas station. He states that at 11:04 p.m. the footage shows a vehicle driven by Axel Zamorron, with passengers Robert Garcia and Kaye, arrived at the gas station and Garcia went into the store. A few minutes later a vehicle driven by Suarez, with passengers Avila-Cisneros and Kiana Cole, a minor, pulled up behind Zamorron’s BMW.
From fists to guns
Suarez approaches Zamorron’s vehicle and an argument ensues. At this point, Suarez has a pistol exposed, Cole and Zamorron state in their individual interviews.
Martinez said in a Monday interview he also could see a handgun in the video.
Avila-Cisneros then joins Suarez at Zamorron’s window. Zamorron exits his vehicle and begins to fight with Avila-Cisneros, eventually landing what Martinez described as a right cross that takes Avila to the ground.
On the other side of Zamorron’s vehicle, Suarez is fighting with Kaye, who is in the back seat, through Kaye’s window. Martinez said Monday it appeared Kaye was trying to get out to defend himself but Suarez kept closing the door.
After Avila-Cisneros is knocked to the ground, Suarez stops fighting with Kaye to go help his friend, who gets up and returns to the vehicle and retrieves a rifle. Martinez said it is an SKS style assault rifle firing 7.62 millimeter rounds, with a large mag, or clip.
Almost at the same time, Kaye produces a shotgun from Zamorron’s vehicle and points it at Suarez’s vehicle.
Suarez pulls the later identified 9 mm semi-automatic from his waistband.
Martinez states in the complaint that off-duty Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Deputy Gabrielle Marquez-Baca has witnessed the whole event and when she sees weapons being pointed, she orders everyone to put down their respective firearms. Kaye complies.
Martinez said Monday, “It seems like Suarez initiated the firing and Johnathon (Avila-Sisneros) followed up.”
“A split second later, Daniel and Jonathan begin to fire towards the car and the crowd that was gathered nearby,” the report states.
The crowd dives for cover and after the shooting ceases, Suarez’s group races south on Riverside Drive.
Martinez said Monday when they were exiting the gas station, “on the move, firing, those are the rounds I could see I think hit asphalt and enter the establishment.”
Coincidentally, as Suarez leaves the gas station Española Police Officer Ernest Saucido is running radar at the corner of Riverside Drive and Fairview Lane. He clocks Suarez going 75 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone and pulls him over for speeding, Martinez states in the complaint.
It’s not clear when Saucido learns the occupants were involved in the shooting but at 11:33 p.m. he makes a felony stop.
Martinez said Monday he believes Saucido’s training made what could have been a dangerous stop, uneventful.
“I believe he exited his unit and as he approached he heard the driver say something like, ‘It was self-defense. He fired first,’” Martinez said. “His training kicked in and he drew his weapon and had the driver get out.”
Martinez said Saucido could see a weapon in the car’s console.
He handcuffed the two men and arrested them. Cole was interviewed and released.
She told Martinez that as the trio drove through the Wal-Mart parking lot, Suarez was yelling “gang slurs.” When they got to the gas station, the two men exited the vehicle to confront Zamorron. She told Martinez “Daniel (Suarez) had a pistol on him already when he approached Axle (Axel).”
Cole told Martinez she heard shots but didn’t know whether to get out and run or remain in place.
Martinez interviewed Zamorron, who told him this was an ongoing situation. He said when his brother went inside to purchase alcohol, he saw Suarez pull up behind him.
Zamorron said he saw that Suarez had a pistol on his side but was prepared to fight anyway. He exited, “And he begin (sic) to box with Jonathan (Avila-Cisneros).”
Zamorron states he saw Suarez remove his gun from his pants and point it at him but is unsure if Suarez shot at him because he only “heard the blast from the larger gun.”
Once Suarez left the gas station, Zamorron went to check on Kaye, whom Zamorron said was already dead but they took him to the hospital anyway and “dropped him off.”
Martinez said Monday the weapons are still in Suarez’s car and it is impounded and sealed. He planned to process it Thursday (7/5).
“They both lawyered up, so I couldn’t interview them but I’m working through 12 witnesses,” he said.
Suarez and Avila-Cisneros appeared June 29 before Española Magistrate Judge Alexandra Naranjo. She ordered both be held in the Tierra Amarilla Detention Facility without bond. They are scheduled for a hearing Thursday (7/5) to determine release conditions. They are both charged with murder in the first degree, attempt to commit a felony to wit: murder in the first degree and aggravated assault (use of a deadly weapon) to wit: a firearm.
The open first-degree murder count is a capital crime while attempted first-degree murder is a second-degree felony and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon is a fourth-degree felony.