4 Investigates: Sheriff’s mental health plan and a veteran’s death

A family calls law enforcement for help with someone suffering a mental health crisis, deputies respond, then shoot and kill that person while they’re holding a knife.

If it sounds similar, it’s because it is.

If it sounds similar, it’s because it is. 

A family calls law enforcement for help with someone suffering a mental health crisis, deputies respond, then shoot and kill that person while they’re holding a knife. 

It’s what happened to Elisha Lucero in 2019. Now, a wrongful death lawsuit claims it’s what happened to Jared Romero. 

Romero was an Army veteran suffering from PTSD and delusional disorder in 2023. 

“I raised my kids, including Jared, to respect law enforcement. I taught them that if you ever need help, call the police,” Martin Romero, Jared’s father said. “[Now] I’ll never call the police again for help for anything.” 

Martin and Jared’s three siblings sat down with 4 Investigates to go over what they said were failures by the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office leading to the wrongful death of Jared. 

TIMELINE

2021: Jared’s family – and Jared himself – notices an increase in paranoid behavior.  

Jared surrenders his guns. Brandon, Jared’s brother, said he got a call from Jared stating he didn’t want any guns in his house. 

Brandon said, “He knew what was going on mentally and he knew he wasn’t fit to have them.” 

Halloween 2022: Jared calls BCSO on himself. At his South Valley home, Jared tells deputies he believes people are trying to kill him. He declines to go to the psychiatric hospital because he says he needs to go to work. Internal emails between BCSO’s behavioral health manager, Diane Dosal, and Sheriff John Allen show a “haz flag” could have been requested to alert deputies to the potential for increased risk for calls at Jared’s home address. It wasn’t. 

March 2, 2023: Jared goes to the BCSO South Valley substation trying to turn himself in for a crime deputies determined he had imagined. Jared is transported to the psychiatric hospital. His information is entered into the Crisis Intervention Database. The database entry shows, “his mental health deteriorated,” that “he has homicidal thoughts,” and he has “no history of threats towards LEO (law enforcement officers).” Deputies contact Jared’s father, Martin. 

March 3, 2023: Martin goes into the BCSO South Valley substation to speak with the sergeant who spoke to Jared. Martin is told about the Crisis Intervention Database. The sergeant explains Jared was taken to the psychiatric hospital and to call if there’s ever any problems or concerns. 

April 16, 2023: Martin tries calling the BCSO South Valley substation, but it’s closed on Sunday. His call is routed to the Bernalillo County Communications. Martin explains he just had a disagreement with Jared over financial assistance and is concerned Jared might try to kill himself. The dispatcher codes the call as a 10-10, or a welfare check. Internal emails between BCSO’s behavioral health manager, Diane Dosal, and Sheriff John Allen call into question whether the call was coded properly. Dosal’s email shows neither deputies nor the dispatcher appear to have checked the Crisis Intervention Database before responding to the call. For a welfare check, BCSO’s standard operating procedure says it’s not required. 

Deputy Amber Cordero and Deputy Oscar Alvarez-Ruiz shoot and kill Jared after he comes out of his home with a knife to his neck telling deputies to shoot him. 

April 20, 2023: In a press conference, Sheriff John Allen says, “It’s time for a culture change,” as he introduces Diane Dosal as the new manager of behavioral health and compliance. County statistics show the South Valley is one of the busiest areas in the metro for mental and behavioral health calls. 

April 21, 2023: Deputy Cordero is interviewed about the shooting and tells investigators she remembers Jared, “dropped his arm that had the knife and he like pointed towards us, and he like lunged. Like, he was about to take a step and like lunge towards us.” Cordero’s body cam video shows the knife never leaves Jared’s neck until after he’s shot and falls to his knees. 

April 27, 2023: BCSO holds a press conference to go over the shooting death of Jared. When asked if deputies were aware Jared was suicidal, Allen said, “Possibly. I just know it came out as a welfare check. I don’t know what a welfare check means to you, but to me, that’s something a little bit more general. So, we need to make sure in our policies and procedures, we need to make sure that is exactly what we are going to.” 

February 13, 2024: Romero’s family files a wrongful death lawsuit. 

ELISHA LUCERO

Elisha Lucero was shot and killed by Bernalillo County deputies in July 2019. 

Her family called BCSO stating she had struck a family member, and she was suffering from a mental health crisis. 

Deputies claimed Lucero had rushed them with a knife. In 2019, then-Sheriff Manny Gonzales refused to equip deputies with body cameras, despite funding from county commissioners. The refusal led to a new state law mandating body cameras for most law enforcement departments. 

Bernalillo County settled quickly for $4 million. No deputies faced criminal charges. 

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

The Multi-Agency Task Force has completed its investigation into the deputies who shot and killed Jared. That report has been forwarded to the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office for review and potential charges against deputies. 4 Investigates has filed an Inspection of Public Records Act for the full report. 

The wrongful death lawsuit is moving through the civil court system. 

You may also like...