When Española Police Officer Anthony Martinez pulled over a 1990 blue Chevrolet Metro hatchback on Aug. 12, he was looking for a man who had broken into a Walmart cash register and taken cash. But he got much more than just a suspect.
Martinez went to Walmart on Aug. 11 and spoke with asset protection employee Michelle Tewa, who told him a cash register in the cosmetics department had been broken into and $592 was taken. However, the damage to the register was estimated to cost even more — $1,846.82.
Tewa showed Martinez surveillance footage in which a man in blue pants, a black shirt and a face mask is pacing back and forth in the cosmetics department. The man is later identified as Sebastian Abeyta, 30, of Chimayó.
After a short time, he goes to the unattended register and tries unsuccessfully to open it. He steps away and returns shortly thereafter, at which time he uses an unknown item to force the register open, which causes damage and takes the money from inside.
Tewa and Martinez followed Abeyta’s trail through the store on the surveillance footage and saw that he exited through the door in the lube and oil area, then got into a blue Chevy Metro hatchback and left, toward Lowe’s Home Improvement. Tewa told Martinez she believed the man was Abeyta, but wasn’t sure.
Martinez left Walmart and went in search of the car. A short time later, Tewa called him and said she noticed, on the surveillance footage, that the car had an out-of-state license plate on the left-hand side.
On Aug. 12, Martinez was on patrol when he spotted a blue Chevy Metro hatchback traveling south on Riverside Drive. It had a license plate from Colorado on the left side. He pulled the car over near Metro PCS and spoke with the sole occupant of the car, which was Abeyta. Martinez recognized him from previous incidents.
“I asked Mr. Abeyta why there was surveillance footage of him at the Walmart register the day before and he said that he would speak with me and asked me to help him,” Martinez wrote in his incident report. “I asked Mr. Abeyta to step out of the vehicle and (sic) speak with me and he said he didn’t have anything to say about the incident.”
Abeyta told Martinez that he would give back the $1,000, despite only $592 missing from the Walmart register. Martinez questioned Abeyta about another incident a couple weeks prior, in which the man was seen in the electronics department at Walmart, messing with the register there. Abeyta said he didn’t take anything and the officer said he knew that, but wanted to know why Abeyta was doing that. He said he needed money.
“He asked if he could just pay it back and ‘make it right,’” Martinez wrote.
When the officer ran Abeyta’s information through Central Dispatch, he was told that Abeyta’s license was suspended. When he ran the license plate of the car, it came back as being stolen.
Martinez placed Abeyta in investigative detention and handcuffed him. He asked the man where he got the car and Abeyta said from his boyfriend, Darrel Willis, who “probably did steal it,” Martinez wrote.
He asked Abeyta if he knew it was illegal to drive a stolen car and he said “ya.” He asked again, how much he took from the Walmart register and he said $1,000, before saying he didn’t want to talk about the incident anymore.
“Mr. Abeyta kept asking me to work with him and let him go,” Martinez wrote. “I told him that I needed to figure out the situation before a course of action was decided.”
A short time later, dispatch alerted Martinez that Abeyta was on active probationary status.
Martinez asked for consent to search Abeyta, to which the man agreed. During the search, he found a cell phone and $10,596 in his pocket.
Abeyta was arrested and the car was towed. He was charged with receiving or transferring stolen motor vehicles (first offense), larceny and criminal damage to property. He had a preliminary hearing on Aug. 25 in Española Magistrate Court before Judge Alexandra Naranjo.
According to an online court records search, a case was bound over from a lower court to Tierra Amarilla District Court on Aug. 19. In that case, Abeyta is charged with unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and residential burglary.
He has a long rap sheet dating back to 2009, including a case from Jan 27, 2021, in which he was charged with attempt to commit a felony, to wit: fraud; criminal solicitation to commit forgery, make or alter; and theft of identity.