As work progresses on a renovated Blake’s Lotaburger in Española, many questions remain about the murder there last summer amid a new report about safety violations at the restaurant and questions about those alleged to be involved with the crime.
Blake’s Lotaburger has not provided a date for the restaurant’s reopening, nor did they respond to questions from the SUN last week.
Family members of the victim, Cypress Garcia, 22, also continue to pose nagging questions about many aspects of the Aug. 16, 2022 killing and investigation of the crime. For reasons prosecutors have not publicly explained, Ricky Martinez Jr., 31, who police said killed Garcia during a violent crime spree, has not been charged with the homicide.
Martinez Jr. allegedly committed a series of nine armed robberies across the region — seven of them in Española — during an eight-day span in August, according to documents filed by the FBI.
Before Martinez Jr. walked into the Lotaburger, the restaurant’s employees were at risk of becoming victims of violence, state records show.
A Feb. 16 report by New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau found Blake’s Lotaburger committed “serious” violations of workplace safety law before Garcia’s killing.
According to the investigative documents, which Garcia’s family shared with the SUN, OHSB found the Española Lotaburger location “failed to ensure employees of Blake’s Lotaburger were protected against workplace violence due to shooting,” and proposed a penalty of $11,868.
“The employer did not furnish employment and a place of employment which were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious harm ... employees were exposed to the hazard of workplace violence,” the OHSB citation states.
Lotaburger has the right to contest the findings, according to the bureau.
The victim’s brother, Cyress Garcia, 20, says he is still haunted by the events of Aug. 16.
Garcia, who was working in the restaurant’s kitchen when the shooter first walked in, criticized what he called an unsafe work environment in the lead-up to his brother’s killing.
He said the burger chain’s regional manager was more concerned with reporting “small messes” to the chain’s corporate offices than preparing for something as dangerous as potential armed robberies.
“There wasn’t even a button to call the cops in case that kind of situation went down,” Garcia told the SUN. “I think in the future some of these businesses need to start caring about their employees and their safety.”
Prior to the Lotaburger shooting, Martinez Jr. allegedly committed three separate robberies in Española between Aug. 9 and Aug. 11 and was later charged in all three, records show. He allegedly fled the Lotaburger crime scene by car with the help of alleged getaway driver Adelene Urquijo, 35, according to court records.
Urquijo’s legal status in the Lotaburger case remains unclear.
Court records indicate Urquijo had her case dismissed by prosecutors on April 7.
JoHanna Cox, public information officer for the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office, told the SUN she was unable to see the status of Urquijo’s case.
Cox said it was possible the case was either taken up by federal prosecutors, or that there was a plea agreement in place that she could not view in her records.
Urquijo’s case has left the Garcia family puzzled.
The night of his brother’s killing, Cyress Garcia heard shots fired near the Lotaburger cash register, rushed from the kitchen area and tackled the shooter before being pistol-whipped, he told the SUN.
Unable to open the register, the shooter allegedly bolted to the vehicle police say Urquijo had parked outside and fled the scene.
“I really wish the getaway driver would have got charges because she was initially part of it,” Garcia says.
Garcia’s sister, Unique Peña, says she helped raise Cypress and thought of him as a son. Cypress Garcia would give the shirt off his back to anyone in need and always made sure his family was cared for, Peña says.
Peña says she can’t understand why Urquijo’s case would possibly be dismissed by prosecutors.
“I think she really needs to be charged and held accountable for what she did,” Peña said.
According to Martinez Jr.’s indictment, he has not been charged with murder. Prosecutors have charged him with multiple crimes related to armed robbery and possession of a firearm. It is unclear where Martinez, Jr. is being held in prison.
Garcia and Peña say that federal law enforcement officials told their family murder charges would be filed at a later date.
“I don’t understand why he hasn’t been charged with my brother’s murder,” Peña said of Martinez Jr. “My brother Cyress almost died in the incident and witnessed it as well. I really think Ricky should be charged for attempted murder to Cyress.”
Cyress Garcia says he worked at Lotaburger for five years, eventually becoming a manager. Before he helped Cypress land a job there, Cypress would voluntarily visit the restaurant to help Cyress, since the food chain was short-staffed.
Garcia says he would cook Cypress a chicken sandwich with a burger on top as a thank you — a treat his brother loved. He said he does not believe it is right for Lotaburger to reopen at the location where his brother was slain.
Despite being told four months ago that a memorial event would be held at the Española Lotaburger, Garcia and Peña say they haven’t heard back from the restaurant.
A memorial display for Cypress that once sat in front of the Lotaburger was recently removed, according to Peña. A smaller memorial on the fence outside the restaurant is still in place.
“I’m not sure who took it down, but it is now taken down,” Peña said. “It kind of upsets us because we’re trying to keep a memory alive for our brother, and it doesn’t seem like they want to do that there.”
To grieve Cypress, his family said they periodically release balloons at his sister’s house and at a nearby park. He is buried at Rosario Cemetery in Sante Fe.
“I want everyone to know him and keep on his legacy,” Cyress Garcia said. “I just really want him to get justice.”
there were many many more violations happening at that location.
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