Three Rio Arriba County residents are facing charges of kidnapping, armed robbery and aggravated assault, after they allegedly kidnapped a Chamita man Sept. 17 from Walgreens in Española, beat him and threatened to kill him over fentanyl pills.
Nicholas Gonzales, 32, of Alcalde; Lucas Naranjo, 41, of Española; and Aspen Newman, 27, of Española, are accused of following Jesus Rodriguez-Mendez, as he left the Ohkay Casino in his Mitsubishi Mirage.
Rodriguez-Mendez told State Police Officer Christopher Urquidi that he noticed a Chrysler 300 and a GMC pickup truck pull behind him as he was driving and flash their headlights.
The Chrysler pulled up next to Rodriguez-Mendez and the driver, identified as Nicholas Gonzales aka “Troubles”, pointed a handgun at him and told him to drive to Walgreens because they needed to talk to him.
“The passenger of the Chrysler was described as a (sic) 18-20 year old male,” New Mexico State Police Agent Cruzita Romero, the lead case agent in the investigation, wrote in her arrest warrant for Gonzales, Naranjo and Newman. “Jose described Troubles as having two horn tattoos on each side of his forehead. Though (sic) prior knowledge it is known to law enforcement that Nicholas Gonzales goes by the moniker ‘Troubles’ and does have two horn tattoos on his forehead as described by Jose.”
Rodriguez-Mendez got to Walgreens and parked on the side of the building. Gonzales parked on the passenger side of Rodriguez-Mendez’s car, while an older man in a red truck parked on the driver’s side. That driver was described as being about 45 years old, light complected and tall with a mustache and black hair.
Rodriguez-Mendez wasn’t sure at what point the driver of the red truck joined the group because he didn’t recall seeing the truck following him from Ohkay Owingeh. He also wasn’t sure where the GMC parked, as he didn’t see it when he pulled into Walgreens. He told police that he thought Gonzales’s girlfriend was driving that truck, because he remembered the man saying, at some point, that the driver was his girlfriend.
Gonzales went to Rodriguez-Mendez’s driver-side window and showed the man a handgun in his waistband, then ordered him into the Chrysler. Rodriguez-Mendez got in the front seat, while the unidentified 18-20-year-old man sat in the back.
“While Troubles had the gun in his hand, he asked Jose where the two containers of fentanyl pills were because those pills belonged to the cartel,” Romero wrote.
Rodriguez-Mendez denied taking the pills and that’s when Gonzales called Naranjo, via Facebook messenger. He gave his phone to Rodriguez-Mendez and Naranjo allegedly told him, “You’re dead mother (expletive).”
While the men were still in the car, Gonzales, while holding the gun, ordered Rodriguez-Mendez to give him his Air Jordan sneakers and the keys to his car.
“Lucas and Aspen Newman eventually showed up to Walgreens after they were dropped off by Lucas’s father,” Romero wrote. “Jose identified the male in the grey car as ‘Drowsy,’ (unknown name).”
Naranjo and “Drowsy” walked over to talk to Gonzales on the driver side of the Chrysler, while Newman got into the driver seat of Rodriguez-Mendez’s Mitsubishi. At some point, “Troubles” gave her the keys.
Romero noted in the arrest warrant that Rodriguez-Mendez didn’t hear anyone tell Newman to get into his car, so he believed they had planned for her to take his car.
Naranjo and “Drowsy” walked over to Rodriguez-Mendez and “Drowsy” punched the man in the face, while Naranjo slapped him through the window.
“Because Jose was in fear, he lied to Lucas and told him he would take him to Chamita to get the pills, although in Jose’s mind, he planned on taking Lucas to his (Jose) brother’s house, so his brother could help him or call the police,” Romero wrote.
Gonzales got out of the car and spoke with Naranjo and “Drowsy” privately, then returned to the Chrysler and told Rodriguez-Mendez, “I just saved your life.”
“Lucas got into the front passenger seat of Jose’s car,” Romero wrote. “Based on what Troubles said, Jose did not think Lucas was going to hurt him, therefore Jose exited the Chrysler to get into his own vehicle with Aspen and Lucas.”
Naranjo got into the backseat and as Rodriguez-Mendez was getting into the front seat, Naranjo allegedly pulled his hair and started choking him. Rodriguez-Mendez began to resist and tried to get out of the car, but the man from the red truck slammed his feet with the door.
“Jose believed Aspen bit him because he had a bite mark on his left forearm, which broke the skin,” Romero wrote. “Lucas tied Jose’s wrists together with a black cellphone charging cable.”
Rodriguez-Mendez directed them toward Chamita, to his brother’s house. They were followed by the GMC truck, the red truck and the Chrysler. Gonzales kept the gun out during the trip and allegedly told Rodriguez-Mendez that he was going to be raped and taken to the mountains and his family was going to be killed. Rodriguez-Mendez was told that if he said anything to the cops, he’d be sorry.
Before going to Rodriguez-Mendez’s brother’s house, Newman drove to a house, saying they needed to get someone else named Naranjo in case Rodriguez-Mendez intended to ambush them.
“Lucas got out of the vehicle when they got to Naranjo’s entrance,” Romero wrote. “Lucas was going to jump over the closed gate, but someone told him Naranjo wasn’t home.”
In the arrest warrants, it’s not clear who the group was looking for, as Rodriguez-Mendez wasn’t able to remember the second Naranjo’s first name. However, he said the man’s father owned a jewelry store in Arroyo Seco. Romero wrote that the couple that owns the jewelry store are Jerome Naranjo’s parents.
Jerome Naranjo was recently arrested on multiple felony charges after State Police looked for him for week after a State Police officer shot him in a late night confrontation off North McCurdy Road.
While they were parked, the girl in the GMC handed Lucas Naranjo a machete. He got back into the car and allegedly held the machete to Rodriguez-Mendez’s torso.
“Aspen told Jose ‘If you think this is bad, wait until he (Naranjo) gets in the car,” Romero wrote.
Newman then drove around to State Road 74, where there was another entrance to the Naranjo residence.
“When Aspen was about to turn into the dirt road, Lucas told her to be careful because there was a ‘stater’ (NMSP),” Romero wrote.
Rodriguez-Mendez saw an opportunity to escape and took it. He tried to open the door, but Lucas Naranjo grabbed him by the collar, strangling him in the process. Rodriguez-Mendez was able to free himself and waved down New Mexico State Police Officer Christopher Urquidi, who was patrolling the Chamita area.
While on patrol, Urquidi saw the GMC pickup and Mitsubishi parked on the southbound shoulder of the road.
“As Officer Urquidi passed the vehicles he looked in his rear-view mirror and observed a male, later identified as Jose Jesus Rodriguez-Mendez frantically trying to wave him down,” Romero wrote. “Officer Urquidi observed the grey vehicle speed down a dirt road toward a residence number 202B (known to law enforcement as Jerome Naranjo’s residence), while the GMC fled east on State Road 74.”
When he stopped, Urquidi saw that Rodriguez-Mendez had blood on his face and was in distress. He told the officer he’d been kidnapped from Walgreens in Española, by Lucas Naranjo, Newman and Gonzales, whom he said were armed with guns and intended to kill him.
Gonzales is charged with one count of kidnapping, two counts of armed robbery and one count of aggravated assault (use of a deadly weapon).
Lucas Naranjo is charged with one count of kidnapping, one count of aggravated battery (use of a deadly weapon), one count of conspiracy, one count of aggravated assault and one count of intimidation of a witness (intimidating or threatening to prevent reporting).
Newman is charged with one count each of kidnapping, conspiracy, unlawful taking of a vehicle or motor vehicle (first offense) and aggravated battery.