An apparent fight at a small apartment complex just southeast of Bicentennial Park late Monday left one man dead and another charged on an open count of murder after an hourslong standoff with Santa Fe police early Tuesday morning.
Deputy Chief Paul Joye said Robert Barela, 51, was stabbed to death in the fight, though investigators were still trying to determine what led to the altercation. Jonathan Kelly, 61, was arrested early Tuesday and admitted to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center after he was believed to have ingested medications. His condition was not known.
A member of Barela’s family, who did not want to be identified, said, “He was a great person.
“We lost a great person of our family,” the woman said on behalf of the family. “We are devastated. It was a tragic loss. He was a great human being. He went over … and he never came back.”
Barela is the sixth homicide victim in Santa Fe in 2019.
Joye said officers responded to a call on Lopez Street, near Aspen Community Magnet School on the city’s northwest side, at 8:23 p.m. Monday, originally to assist an ambulance.
“When officers were en route, they were advised an individual had been stabbed,” Joye said.
Kelly refused to come out of his apartment, where police believe the stabbing occurred, when officers arrived.
Barela, meanwhile, had been found outside the building, lying on the sidewalk in front of a neighbor’s house.
Rain Gonzales, who lives three houses down from Kelly’s apartment complex, said a woman knocked on his door Monday night and told his fiancée, Chantalle Pane, that a man was bleeding outside. She asked Pane to call 911.
Pane made the call for help and then ran outside and saw Barela bleeding on the sidewalk, Gonzales said. Police arrived less than five minutes later.
“He wasn’t breathing,” Gonzales said. “He was pretty badly stabbed.”
About two hours later, Joye said, the Santa Fe Police Department SWAT team and crisis negotiators arrived to try to coax Kelly out of the apartment.
“They were able to open a line of communication with Mr. Kelly, which was ongoing until a little after 3 in the morning,” Joye said.
Angie Romero, who has owned the Lopez Street property since 1990, said she had seen Kelly just hours before the stabbing. He had company over and “was in really good spirits,” she said.
Later that night, as SWAT officers surrounded his apartment and demanded he come out, Kelly called her, she said. He wanted her to call police “and tell them that if they went in to get him, he would kill himself.”
Romero tried to calm Kelly down and encouraged him to follow officers’ orders to exit the building, she said, but he refused.
He repeatedly told her, “I didn’t hurt anyone,” she said.
Joye said when Kelly stopped responding to crisis negotiators sometime after 3 a.m., the SWAT team sent a robot to his front door to ensure it was safe for officers to enter the building. Those who went inside found him unconscious, and he was taken to the hospital.
“We believe he took some prescriptions, a large amount of prescription medications,” Joye said.
Santa Fe police spokesman Greg Gurulé said he could not provide an update on Kelly’s condition Tuesday night but confirmed Kelly was still in the hospital and not expected to be released for a couple of weeks.
Romero said Kelly had been living at the complex for about three months and was the only person listed on the lease for his unit. He previously had lived at the apartment for about nine months in 2018.
He had been receiving rental assistance from Goodwill Industries of New Mexico through its veteran services program, she said.
A representative from Goodwill did not return a message to verify Kelly was receiving the assistance.
Romero said she did not know Barela.
Five residents of the neighborhood huddled together Tuesday morning on the corner of Lopez Street and Salazar Place, discussing what had happened the night before. They said the small street had been filled with flashing lights, SWAT team members holding guns and the loud, hourslong drone of a SWAT officer on a loudspeaker, demanding Kelly come out of the building.
Police records show 52 officers were dispatched to the scene.
Three crime scene vehicles were still in front of the complex Tuesday morning as two investigators filtered in and out of Kelly’s apartment. A bloodstain and disposable gloves remained on the sidewalk where Barela had been found.
The security bars on a window in Kelly’s apartment had been removed, and the window was broken.
Crime scene tape was still attached to the gate at Susan McGarry’s house, just around the corner from Kelly’s apartment. The noise from the standoff had kept her up for hours, she said, describing the event as “seriously scary.”
McGarry, who has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, said the apartment complex where Kelly was holed up overnight is known for having a lot of foot traffic and being noisy. She often has seen police and animal control vehicles in front of the building, as well as people being evicted, she said.
Gonzales, a lifelong resident of his home on Lopez Street, said he doesn’t know many of his neighbors. People often move in and out of the complex, he said, adding he did not know Kelly or Barela.
“It was really shocking,” Gonzales said of the fatal stabbing and SWAT operation. “It is not Santa Fe, you know what I mean? That’s not common for around here at all.”
Joye said the homicide investigation remains open and police are continuing to conduct interviews.
“We are just kind of waiting to see when [Kelly] recovers enough for us to interview and get him [medically] cleared and get him booked on his charges,” Joye said.
Santa Fe homicides, 2019
April 29: Ricardo Magana, 39, was fatally shot by his girlfriend’s son, 16-year-old Hunter Woods, who accepted a plea deal in August that calls for him to spend two years on probation. Magana died from his wounds May 19.
July 11: Ernestine Romero Saucedo, 32, was fatally shot by her husband, 34-year-old Jessie Saucedo, in an SUV parked outside the downtown state building where she worked.
July 21: Matthew Corral, 33, was found fatally shot on a downtown street around 12:20 a.m. Police have not named a suspect in his death.
Sept. 7: Rodrigo Garay, 19, was fatally shot while attending a party on Hopewell Street. Beverly Melendez, 64, who lives in a home near the party location, has been charged with second-degree murder.
Sept. 15: Aaron Chapman, 37, was found dead from blunt force trauma under a downtown bridge. Police have made no arrests in the case.
Nov. 18: Robert Barela, 51 was fatally stabbed during an altercation at an apartment on Lopez Street. Jonathan Kelly, 61, who lived at the home, faces a count of murder.