A heated exchange between two men from Velarde over past confrontations prompted a fatal shooting on Thanksgiving Day, New Mexico State Police said.

State police spokesman Ray Wilson said officers were sent late Thursday morning to La Tiendita gas station on N.M. 68 in Alcalde, where they found Thomas Derick Velarde, 58, dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

A criminal complaint the agency filed Monday in Rio Arriba County Magistrate Court said Timothy Lopez, 58, the owner of Wicked Kreations Winery in the village of Velarde, was booked in the county jail in Tierra Amarilla on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

He was still at the scene when officers arrived and surrendered, the complaint said. Officers found Velarde’s body in the driver’s seat of a silver pickup in the parking lot.

The incident was captured on surveillance video, the complaint said, adding the footage shows Velarde arriving at the gas station around 11:30 a.m., followed by Lopez. Lopez approached Velarde’s truck, and the men began arguing, according to state police. A man in the passenger seat got out, confronted Lopez and went into the convenience store.

The complaint said the man told workers to call 911, and then they heard a gunshot.

Lopez told police he had gone to La Tiendita to deliver wine, and found Velarde parked at the pump. He drew his gun, tapped on Velarde’s window and told him to get out of the truck and “face him like a man,” according to the complaint.

Prior conflicts between the two had led to the confrontation, Lopez told police.

Velarde broke his own window with a knife and lunged at Lopez as he stood with his gun drawn, Lopez said, adding a struggle for the gun ensued, and the weapon discharged, killing Velarde.

A winery employee who was in the car with Lopez gave officers a similar account of the incident. After he heard the gunshot, the man said, he walked away from the scene and asked his mother to pick him up because he didn’t want to become involved.

When he returned to the winery, the man told police, he heard employee Lynsey Horcasitas on the phone with Lopez, who informed her he had shot Velarde.

Horcasitas, who also spoke with police, could not be reached for comment Monday.

An employee at La Tiendita said workers had been instructed by their legal representative not to comment on the incident.

The shooting — the fourth homicide in November in Northern New Mexico — remains under investigation.

On Nov. 5, Alejandro Alirez, 23, of Las Vegas, N.M., was arrested on suspicion of fatally shooting Cristobal Cervantes and her grandfather, Victor Cervantes. Alirez is awaiting trial, pending a mental competency hearing.

Leonard Francis Kieren is wanted by law enforcement on suspicion of the Nov. 21 fatal shooting of Kathleen Lorraine Vigil, a woman he was living with in San Ildefonso Pueblo. According to court documents, Kieren anonymously called 911 to tell law enforcement he had killed Vigil before fleeing the state.

Authorities believe Kieren is in Arizona.

(2) comments

David Romero

Lopez is charged with first degree murder when the man lunged at him with knife? I'm no lawyer but that sounds like self defense to me.

Lee Vigil

I don't know about self defense for Lopez. After all, he did follow Velarde into the gas station, then approached him with a gun drawn. Seems like Velarde was defending himself when he pulled a knife. Such senselessness really. Both their lives are now over.

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