A Gallina man charged with murder in a suspected road rage-related fatal shooting in January had his case dismissed weeks later by federal prosecutors after evidence was uncovered that the man he killed was the aggressor, a defense attorney said Wednesday.

Dennis Velasquez Jr., 25, was arrested by the FBI four days after the Jan. 5 shooting alongside N.M. 68 in Ohkay Owingeh. The man who was shot was identified at the time by a relative on social media as 53-year-old Phillip Glock, a pueblo resident.

Federal prosecutors asked a judge to dismiss murder charges against Velasquez on Feb. 22, citing “evidentiary issues which may make it difficult to convict” Velasquez beyond the reasonable doubt standard at trial, U.S. District Court records show.

The case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning prosecutors may refile charges if new evidence emerges.

“The reason it was dismissed is because the person who was killed was the aggressor,” said federal public defender Sylvia Baiz.

Elizabeth Martinez, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque, declined to comment Wednesday on the dismissal. An FBI spokesman did not answer a request for comment.

Velasquez was riding in the back seat of an SUV driven by his parents when their vehicle was cut off by a white pickup driven by Glock, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case in U.S. District Court. An eyewitness told FBI agents the SUV then tried to run the pickup off the road.

Both vehicles pulled over to the side of the road at a travel center near the Ohkay Hotel Casino, where Glock emerged from his truck with a baton in his hand, the witness said. Glock’s two children were in the truck at the time, according to investigators.

Velasquez’s father, who had been driving the SUV, told investigators Glock was wearing a hoodie pulled over his head, a mask over his mouth, and “looked menacing.” He also appeared to be holding a sawed-off shotgun. He said his son then fired a shot with a rifle through the SUV’s back seat window, according to the criminal complaint.

The shot struck Glock in the face and killed him, according to investigators. Following the shooting, the family drove from the scene before police arrived.

Velasquez’s father maintained his son wasn’t trying to kill Glock but wanted to scare him in order to protect his parents, according to the complaint. Velasquez’s mother, who had been in the front passenger seat, told investigators that after the shooting, her son kept saying, “He was going to kill you, Dad.”

The Velasquez family had stopped in Ohkay Owingeh to buy cigarettes after a shopping trip to Española to buy parts to fix a frozen waterline at their rural Rio Arriba County home, according to the complaint. Velasquez’s uncle told investigators that the family kept a rifle in the back seat of their car because they were scared of gang and drug activity in Española.

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