TAOS — New Mexico State Police arrested three men in Peñasco late Monday in connection with an armed robbery that terrorized a local cashier who had brought her infant child to work.
According to a statement of probable cause filed Tuesday in Taos County Magistrate Court, police believe the three suspects — Terance Quintana, 22; Andrew Romero, 28; and Christopher Shemayme, 24 — carried out the robbery to pool enough cash to buy heroin in the mountain community.
Edwardo Martinez, a state police commander in Taos County, said dispatchers alerted his officers about the robbery at Pacheco’s High Road Market around 4 p.m. Monday.
Dispatchers said witnesses described an armed man — later identified as Quintana — who wore a white hoodie and a white bandana over his face, fired a shot into the air from a handgun, robbed the register and fled.
The cashier told officers she was accompanied by her infant when the man entered the store and demanded cash, according to the statement. She thought the robbery was a joke, she said — until the man pulled out a black and silver handgun, prompting her to begin emptying the till.
The robber appeared to grow nervous as more customers arrived at the door of the popular gas station market, she said. He fired a single shot into the store ceiling, grabbed what cash had been removed from the register and fled, the statement said.
Officers reported they saw a hole in the ceiling and collected a spent shell casing from the floor. Other employees said they recognized the masked robber as Quintana as they reviewed surveillance footage.
A state police officer familiar with the area recognized Quintana’s father at the Dollar General down the road and asked him about his son’s whereabouts, according to the statement. The father agreed to take the officers to his residence, where they found and arrested all three men suspected in the robbery.
On top of Quintana’s laundry basket, an officer found a black and silver handgun, and on the bed, a white bandana, the statement said.
Romero told police Quintana had purchased narcotics in Ojo Sarco on Monday afternoon.
Officers searched Quintana and found a plastic bag containing heroin.
Quintana was charged with seven counts: armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, assault with intent to commit a violent felony, attempt to commit child abuse, possession of a controlled substance, tampering with evidence and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Romero and Shemayme were charged with armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
The store’s owner, Michael Pacheco, said this week’s robbery isn’t the first in the market’s 46-year history.
“We’ve been held up before,” he said, “but nothing like this — no gunfire.”
The first time someone walked into his store brandishing a gun was more than 20 years ago. After that robbery, Pacheco said, he installed surveillance cameras and began instructing his employees to avoid violent escalations.
Pacheco said local business owners can only do so much. A lack of local law enforcement, he added, is a problem that still gives him and other local residents concern.
“We try our best to cover that area daily, both day and night, as much as possible,” Martinez said. “I have three officers that live south of Peñasco who patrol that area almost everyday.”
Taos Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said he also assigns deputies to conduct “regular and dedicated patrols” in the outlying communities around Taos County.
But, he said, a single call that requires a large response can pull deputies off those patrols.
A version of this story first appeared in The Taos News, a sister publication of the Santa Fe New Mexican.