PIECING IT TOGETHER
Picture of June homicide takes shape as DA continues investigation
By Ryan Lowery | January 21, 2020
She was near the front door when the shot was fired. A single bullet pierced the man’s rib cage, just below his right armpit.
“They got me,” 27-year-old Cruz Gallegos said as he stumbled past her, through the front door and into the darkness of the early June morning, hours before sunrise.
The shooter then pointed the gun at her.
As 24-year-old Jordan Sisneros stared at the barrel of the gun, Gallegos collapsed outside, bleeding.
The two had arrived at the nondescript stucco home in Las Vegas, New Mexico, near the intersection of South Pacific Street and Perez Street around 3 a.m., according to police reports and court documents.
They’d been drinking some alcohol together at another house when Gallegos said he needed to talk to his uncle, Marcos Ruiz. So, he and Sisneros set out on foot to visit him at his mother’s home.
Before going inside, Gallegos warned her to be careful around Ruiz.
“You know how he is,” Gallegos told her.
With the warning in mind, she accompanied Gallegos inside the house where Marcos Ruiz and his brother Arturo Ruiz were waiting for them. With them was a man she’d never met — an older man with salt-and-pepper hair and a mustache.
Marcos Ruiz made some type of sarcastic remark, she recalled, and then he pointed a gun at them.
Marcos Ruiz accused Gallegos of trying to set him up “with the cops.” Gallegos swore it wasn’t him, though. He wouldn’t do that, he said. They’re family.
Gallegos had a theory about who had tried to set Marcos Ruiz up, though: Gary Coca, a man they both knew.
The FBI knows Coca too. Agents suspect he may have been driving a car used in another homicide about five weeks later. According to a search warrant affidavit filed in U.S. District Court, at least one witness identified Coca as the driver; however, another witness identified Marcos Ruiz as the driver.
Federal agents would arrest Coca months later, and charge him with robbery and possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
Marcos Ruiz was also a target of raids by the FBI and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration — months later, in September 2019 — and court documents show that federal authorities believe they know why he pointed a gun at Gallegos and Sisneros that June morning: Gallegos had stolen $70,000 worth of fentanyl from Marcos Ruiz.
If so, Marcos Ruiz didn’t discuss the matter in front of Sisneros, and luckily for her, he didn’t pull the trigger. Instead, he told her to go outside so he and Gallegos could talk, then handed the gun to the older man with the mustache, a man police later identified as 56-year-old Max J. Lucero.
Sisneros didn’t make it out of the house before hearing a gunshot though, and soon, she again had a gun pointed at her, this time by a man who’d just put a bullet in Gallegos.
“Not her,” Marcos Ruiz said before taking the gun from Lucero.
Marcos Ruiz threw a cellphone at Sisneros, called her an expletive, and demanded that she call the police.
Marcos Ruiz, Arturo Ruiz and Lucero then got into a vehicle and drove away as Gallegos lay bleeding in the dirt outside the home.
• • •
Marcos Ruiz is in federal custody, charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder for a double shooting that took place in August 2019.
Jorden Sisneros was arrested on an outstanding warrant for failing to appear in court in a case where she was cited for driving with a suspended license . She has also been charged with felony possession of a controlled substance.
Max J. Lucero is the only person charged in the death of Cruz Gallegos. Prosecutors have charged him with second-degree murder.
LVPD officers arrived at the Chavez Street home around 3:30 a.m. to find Sisneros holding Gallegos, his body limp, his breathing shallow.
Officers knelt beside Gallegos as blood gushed from his right side. An officer removed Gallegos’ shirt and applied pressure to the wound as another officer began CPR.
Once fire and paramedic crews arrived, Gallegos was loaded into an ambulance and transported to Alta Vista Regional Hospital. Inside the ambulance, the officer assisted medical technicians by continuing to administer CPR.
At the hospital, medical personnel prepared to airlift Gallegos to UNM Hospital in Albuquerque, the state’s only level-1 trauma center. Before that flight could happen, though, Gallegos was dead.
Back at the house on Chavez Street, police investigators tried to piece together what had happened. Neighbors reported hearing a gunshot, maybe more than one. Other neighbors said they hadn’t heard anything until police arrived.
During an interview, Sisneros told officers that the driver of a black SUV had shot Gallegos while driving south on Chavez Street.
It didn’t quite make sense to police though, and investigators questioned Sisneros further. Eventually, she admitted there hadn’t been a drive-by shooting. Gallegos had been shot while inside the home, she told them.
Investigators located blood on the sidewalk, the steps to the home and on the porch. Blood was found several places inside the home as well: on the floor near the front door, in the living room and in the kitchen. Blood was also splattered on the walls of the hallway.
It seemed someone had attempted to clean some of the blood stains from the carpet, and under a couch, police recovered a loaded .40-caliber Glock 23 handgun, equipped with an extended ammunition magazine.
Although Sisneros didn’t know the name of the alleged shooter, she was able to provide police a description of the man, and she was able to pick him out of a photo lineup.
Police were familiar with Lucero. He was already wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant for failing to appear in a case where he’s accused of auto theft.
Though several attempts were made, police were unable to locate Lucero.
• • •
From June until December, the case was stagnant, at least publicly.
In July, LVPD called Arturo Ruiz a “person of interest,” but Lucero was never named publicly as a suspect in the homicide.
Behind the scenes, the search for Lucero continued, until Dec. 17, when New Mexico State Police arrested Lucero for driving a stolen truck and fleeing from officers near Pecos.
LVPD investigators interviewed Lucero the next day, and Lucero denied being at the home on Chavez Street on June 15. But according to court records, following further questioning, Lucero admitted to not only being at the house that morning, but to being the one who’d shot Gallegos.
Lucero told investigators that, before Sisneros and Gallegos arrived at the house, he’d heard Marcos and Arturo Ruiz talking about Gallegos. It sounded like Gallegos had stolen drugs or money from Marcos Ruiz, Lucero said. And when Gallegos arrived, Lucero became concerned Gallegos was going to shoot one of them.
He said he armed himself with one of three guns in the living room, and when Gallegos walked down the hallway, he shot him.
Lucero was then driven to his father’s house where Marcos Ruiz gave him $1,500, and Arturo Ruiz gave him half an ounce of heroin, he said. He then went to sleep.
• • •
Max J. Lucero
Courtesy San Miguel County Detention Center
Following interviews with LVPD investigators, Lucero was booked into the San Miguel County Detention Center on Dec. 17.
In early January 2020, the court approved a pretrial motion filed by the district attorney’s office to hold Lucero without bond. No trial date has been scheduled, and Lucero remains in custody at SMCDC.
Marcos Ruiz is also being held at SMCDC, charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder for a double shooting that took place in August 2019. According to police, Ruiz shot and killed Marcos “Mark” Carrillo, and shot and wounded Gilbert Montoya at a home on Union Street.
Sisneros was arrested Dec. 6 on an outstanding warrant for failing to appear in court in a case where she was cited for driving with a suspended license. During the arrest, police located methamphetamine among her belongings, and charged her with felony possession of a controlled substance.
She was released on an unsecured $1,000 bond, but did not appear for her Jan. 7 preliminary hearing, and a no-bond warrant was issued for her arrest.
Fourth Judicial District Attorney Richard Flores said his office continues to investigate the potential roles of others at the home on Chavez Street that June morning.
To date, Lucero is the only person charged in the death of Gallegos.