The Albuquerque Police Department’s failure to investigate or interview a suspect in a double homicide – even after he was accused in an unrelated shooting – allowed him to shoot and kill two of his downstairs neighbors months later, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by family members.
Daniel Humphrey, 31, and his aunt Sonia Tenorio, 46, were shot to death in their West Side apartment on Sept. 2 because, police say, John Paul Ballejos had grown angry at Humphrey’s younger sister Cynthia – who also lived there along with her two children. The family had lived there for about six months.
Tenorio’s sister and daughter and two children arrived at the complex as Ballejos was leaving and found the horrific crime scene, the suit states.
Ballejos was arrested the following day and is charged with two counts of murder. His attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
Cynthia Humphrey was not home at the time of the shooting but her bedroom door was shot through. She was nine months pregnant and has since had a baby and moved into an extended stay motel, according to her attorney.
In July, the 29-year-old reported that 30-year-old Ballejos had shot from his apartment into her bedroom below him.
No one was injured in that shooting. The lawsuit alleges that officer Kevin Beem, who was called out to the scene, took only minimal steps to contact Ballejos before closing the investigation.
“If they would have looked at that they would have known that he was a felon, they would have known that he was a suspect in other cases, and they simply ignored that and closed out the investigation for that shooting that day…,” said David Adams, an attorney representing Cynthia Humphrey and other family members. “This is the purpose of law enforcement: to investigate these types of things that are happening. If it’s not, it creates a danger for other people in the public and unfortunately the only recourse to address that is to file a lawsuit.”
The lawsuit alleges violations of the state’s civil rights act and tort claims act since APD’s failure to act and “willful, malicious, reckless, and outrageous conduct … caused or contributed to Mr. Humphrey and Ms. Tenorio’s deaths.”
Three months before Daniel Humphrey and Tenorio were killed another double homicide was reported across town. Hesiquio Cordova, 44, and Virginia Serna, 46, were shot to death in their Barelas home while babysitting their 2-year-old granddaughter.
Serna’s son told the Journal last month that immediately after he found the couple dead he told detectives he suspected Ballejos – Cordova’s nephew – was responsible. Cordova had filed a restraining order against Ballejos a couple years earlier and both he and Serna had told relatives they were afraid of him.
Detectives did not interview Ballejos in the months that followed and were not aware that he was suspected of shooting into the Humphrey’s apartment, Gallegos has said.
He said that the casings from the two double homicides don’t match one another but Ballejos is the sole suspect in Cordova and Serna’s death. He has not been charged in the case.
Ballejos chose not to answer questions about the homicides after he was arrested in September, Gallegos said.
Shot through floor
On July 11, after she had “rebuffed his romantic propositions” Cynthia Humphrey reported a bullet had been shot through the floor of Ballejos’s apartment above her and into her room.
She called 911 and Officer Beem responded.
According to the lawsuit, Beem knocked on Ballejos’s door and received no response, so APD “closed its investigation into this recklessly violent act that day.”
After the shooting, the apartment manager began eviction proceedings against Ballejos but didn’t act fast enough, according to another lawsuit the family has filed – this one against the management companies that oversaw the apartment complex on the 500 block of 59th NW, near Coors and Fortuna.
The suit alleges that the management company knew it was in a high crime area and yet did not have an office, employees or security there. Furthermore, although the manager notified Ballejos his conduct was a violation of his lease, it was more than 30 days before she brought the matter before Metropolitan Court.
The writ of restitution was issued on Aug. 30. Three days later Daniel Humphrey and Tenorio were killed.
“After they get the writ the next step would have been contacting the sheriff to have (Ballejos) removed and they just didn’t do that,” Adams said.
The management company did not respond to requests for comment.
Both lawsuits seek unspecified damages.
“Resorting to having to sue people to have changes take place is honestly the last thing that you ever want to have happen because you want people to do the right thing,” Adams said. “There are certainly, you know, systemic issues that go way back regarding how do we respond to violent crime in vulnerable communities.”