Five charged in ABQ robbery turned homicide

Detectives charged three men and two women this week in the drug robbery that claimed the life of Ryan Saavedra Jr. last April at a West Side park.

Christian Benson, 22, Ajole Guzman, 19, and suspected gunman Domminick Mullen, 21, are each charged with one open count of murder, attempted robbery and conspiracy in the April 21 death of Saavedra Jr. , 19 years old.

Elijah Tafoya, 19, and his girlfriend Arianna Hawkins, 19, are charged with attempted robbery and conspiracy in the case.

Hawkins was arrested on Wednesday and Benson was already being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in a separate case. An arrest warrant has been issued for Mullen, Guzman and Tafoya.

Court records show Benson sold fentanyl to an undercover officer a week before Saavedra’s death, in an operation targeting social media drug sales in response to rising homicides in 2021. He was not charged or arrested in this bust until early May.

Ryan Saavedra Sr., Saavedra’s father, said the family felt a surge of emotions: relieved, sad, broken.

Ryan Saavedra Jr. (Courtesy of Ryan Saavedra Sr.)

Saavedra said 10 months ago that his son had gone out with his girlfriend, that he loved her and would see her the next morning. He said within an hour they got a call that he was gone.

“Just days after Ryan passed away, if you were to ask – ‘what did you do today? “I would say to you, ‘I went to get a coffin for my son’”, he said, more and more moved.

He added: “One of the most precious things in my life has been taken away from me, I will never be the same again.”

Saavedra said liaison with victims Terry Huertaz, Police Chief Harold Medina and Commander Kyle Hartsock were invaluable during the investigation. He said the group helped the family stay patient and understand the process.

“I think it was quick and they’re really doing a great job,” Saavedra said. “I respect these people with all my heart.

According to a criminal complaint filed with the Metropolitan Court:

Police responded at around 12:45 p.m. to Central Presbyterian Hospital after Saavedra’s girlfriend brought him in with multiple gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead and police traced the shooting to Westgate Heights Park, southeast of 98th and Sage.

Police found several bullet casings in the parking lot and Saavedra’s girlfriend told them they had encountered people in the park where Saavedra had been pepper sprayed and then shot. Detectives looked through Saavedra’s phone and found messages from someone asking to buy fentanyl.

The messages led police to Tafoya, who told them that he, Hawkins, Benson, Guzman and “Kash” were all addicted to fentanyl but had no money. Tafoya said they decided to find someone selling the drugs on social media and steal it.

He said they first posed as a dealer and robbed a man of $20, then taunted him with a photo of Mullen holding a gun with the message ‘come get it bloodied’. Tafoya told police they then made a deal to steal 100 fentanyl tablets from someone in the park.

He said ‘Kash’ opened fire on the car when the dealership left during the robbery, then pointed a gun at Tafoya’s head when he got angry at him ‘for shooting someone. ‘a”. Police spoke with Benson at the MDC and he identified “Kash” as Mullen in a series of photos.

He said he was “not sure” why Mullen opened fire on the car and that he was “the instigator of robbing people” and the only one armed with a gun. Police said the weapon used in the homicide was found later that year.

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