Authorities have arrested a man who they say fatally shot a Blake’s Lotaburger employee during an armed robbery in Española on Tuesday night – the latest in a string of nine robberies committed over the past few weeks.

Ricky Martinez (EPD)

Ricky Martinez, 31, was taken into custody Wednesday evening, the Española Police Department announced on Facebook. Crime Stoppers had been offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to his arrest. Martinez is charged with three counts of armed robbery, and one count each of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, shooting at a dwelling or occupied building, criminal damage to property and possession of a firearm by a felon. Española Police Chief Mizel Garcia said Martinez has shown “an escalation” in his alleged crimes that culminated in an employee in his early 20s being shot and killed during a robbery at a Blake’s Lotaburger.

Lotaburger President Brian Rule sent a statement Wednesday saying the company is “heartbroken by the loss of a Blake’s Lotaburger team member.”

“Our focus now, and moving forward, is supporting our employees and their families,” he said. “… Words cannot express how we feel in losing one of our own.”

Garcia said authorities have taken an accomplice of Martinez’s into custody but did not identify the person or give any details on their involvement.

Martinez has a lengthy criminal history, which includes arrests for shooting at or from a motor vehicle, burglary, aggravated assault against a peace officer and aggravated fleeing. In 2019, according to court records, Martinez was an inmate at the Rio Arriba County Detention Center when he escaped custody after the officer watching him at a hospital “dozed off” and Martinez stole his phone. At the time, he was awaiting trial in a federal case for allegedly stabbing a man and was eventually sentenced to four years in prison, according to court records. It is unclear why Martinez was released from prison in that case.

Court records show that in 2020 a grand jury indicted Martinez on burglary and larceny charges in a 2017 case. Those charges were later dismissed and it is unclear why.

Garcia said that around 9:30 p.m., during a robbery at the Lotaburger on Paseo De Oñate, the offender – identified by police as Martinez – pulled a gun and shot the employee at least once before leaving. He said Martinez has been connected to nine other robberies over the past 10 days: seven in Española, one in Santa Fe and another in Taos.

Garcia said Martinez also has an arrest warrant in an unrelated federal case.

“The biggest concern that we have is that escalation of violence,” Garcia said. “He started from merely brandishing a weapon to firing the weapon during the armed robbery, all the way to the point where he needlessly and tragically took another life.”