A woman accused of participating in a drive-by shooting spree the morning of Sept. 30 died last week in a local hospital from the effects of a drug overdose she suffered in jail, Santa Fe police confirmed Monday.

Officers learned during their investigation Brianna Romero, 20, died Oct. 10 at Presbyterian Santa Fe Medical Center, Deputy Chief Paul Joye said.

Romero was one of three people arrested in the shooting, which damaged several apartment buildings and vehicles on Jaguar Drive and led to lockdowns at Capital High and other nearby schools. She and her sister, Deavonne Romero, 23, and 16-year-old Elijah Gallegos were charged with over a dozen felonies.

After the arrests, Deavonne Romero was booked in the Santa Fe County jail, and Gallegos was sent to the San Juan County juvenile detention facility. But Brianna Romero was taken to Presbyterian Santa Fe Medical Center for treatment of an opioid overdose. It would be the first of two overdoses she experienced while in custody.

After her arrest around 11 a.m. Sept. 30, Brianna Romero was placed in a holding cell at the Santa Fe Police Department’s headquarters on Camino Entrada, Joye said. Just after 12:30 p.m., he said, she was found unresponsive in her cell.

Officers attempted lifesaving measures, including the administration of the anti-overdose drug naloxone, until emergency medical responders arrived, police reports say. Doctors at Presbyterian later discovered a bag of pills, which investigators suspected to be fentanyl, in a body cavity.

Romero was released from the hospital at 5:45 p.m. that day after doctors provided medical clearance for her incarceration. She was booked into the jail two hours later, records show.

The next morning, a guard found her unresponsive in her cell “approximately 20 minutes” after a previous guard check. She was taken to Presbyterian a second time and again was “revived with Narcan,” a Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office report says. But she was still suffering from cardiac events. A doctor found a bag with “clear crystals” in a body cavity.

Joye said the bag was separate from the one found by doctors a day earlier. It was unclear, however, when or where Romero obtained the second bag of substances and when she hid it in a body cavity.

The bag was handed over to the jail, which released Romero from custody after learning she likely would not survive the overdose. Doctors told a sergeant at the jail Romero’s “physical condition was unstable with no signs of neurological functioning,” according to the sheriff’s office report.

Sheriff’s office spokesman Juan Ríos said deputies are not investigating the substance in the bag. The jail would have to first request an investigation, he said.

Santa Fe County officials did not respond to questions about the jail’s booking process, such as whether it includes body cavity searches or X-rays.

When asked if the jail was conducting an investigation into Romero’s fatal overdose, county spokeswoman Carmelina Hart wrote in an email, “Medical information of current and former inmates is confidential by law. All critical incidents are evaluated internally.”

Romero was released from the county’s custody by a court order around 12:10 p.m. Oct. 1, Hart added.

Joye said the police department is conducting an internal investigation to determine if any officers violated policy during Romero’s arrest and booking process. He noted officers only perform pat-downs, not cavity searches, during arrests.

Romero was alone in the holding cell and was monitored by a security camera, he added.

“When she was cleared for incarceration by Presbyterian doctors, they made the determination she was healthy enough to be booked into jail,” Joye said.

Melanie Mozes, a spokeswoman for Presbyterian Santa Fe Medical Center, said she could not release any details about Romero’s hospitalization due to federal patient privacy laws. She noted the process for admitting and releasing patients is the same regardless of whether they are incarcerated.

“Patients are evaluated for emergency medical conditions based on their presenting symptoms and medical complaint and provided with stabilizing care,” Mozes said. “Depending on a patient’s needs, they may be admitted to the hospital, transferred for a higher level of care or discharged home. With respect to incarcerated patients, they are discharged to law enforcement rather than home.”

Deavonne Romero told police her sister was not known to use narcotics and she hadn’t seen her sister take any drugs the day of the shooting, reports say.

When it appeared Brianna Romero would not survive her second overdose, Deavonne Romero requested a furlough from jail so she could visit her sister in the hospital. Her defense attorney, Sam Ruyle, said she was never granted permission to see Brianna before she died.

The family has set up a GoFundMe campaign, bit.ly/3AU5zFC, to help pay for funeral costs.

(13) comments

Alyssa Bauer

My thoughts on this is the SFPD and the hospital/doctors are both to blame for Bri passing away they failed to do their job and the consequence that followed was death. Presbyterian hospital is a terrible place yes it is cleaner but the doctors/nurses have no sympathy for their patients (I've been in the care here a few times and each time was a terrible experience) to me it seems they treated her (Bri) as if she were a disease or a plague! Bri isn't the type of person who would do crazy sh*t such as pills and "clear crystals" her and her sister Dee are innocent and are being blamed for a 16 year olds crime. I wasn't with them during the shooting but I know these girls personally I've worked with both of them and they were very sweet girls and Bri wouldn't do something stupid like this because she had a son to go home too. Bri and Dee were set up and soon enough the darkness comes to light and it'll prove these girls did nothing. Shame on the judge for not granting Dee permission to see her sister the justice system is corrupt and everyone can see it someone who murders another gets a slap on the wrist and a couple years in prison but people who are part of a shooting (pressured and held at gun point) get treated like sh*t and one dies because those who were supposed to help her failed her! R.I.P beautiful you'll be missed I send my condolences and prayers for healing to your family and I send prayers to you on your new beautiful journey. ❤️🙏🏻

Sabine Strohem

This family seems quite tragic.

Carolyn DM

I'm sure all the holes in the story will be revealed when the family files a likely lawsuit.


Let’s hope all the holes in the story get revealed. I don’t think any amount of money will ever replace the hurt of losing a lives one.


Losing a loved one.

Sean Gonzalez

Now what do we learn from this.

Can’t do the time, Don’t do the crime.


So much confusion with this story…. Why didn’t the hospital keep her longer for observation? Where was the second bag, if they already did a cavity search at the hospital? Why wasn’t she in medical while in custody due to two overdoses? How was she not helped during the guard check? I feel the hospital and jail staff treated her like a piece of trash. Prayers to her family….

Chris Mechels

There is no effective oversight of the Santa Fe Detention Center. The SF County Commissioners have chosen NOT to do oversight, in a 2015 decision. The SF Grand Jury had their oversight role stripped away in the 1990s.

SF Detention is "Accredited" by the NM Assn of Counties, which means its a self licking ice cream cone. A fraud, to avoid "real" oversight.

The result, our own little forgotten Hole, right here in SF County. All oversight has been stripped away, leaving the inmates at the mercy of some very bad people. Does anyone care; it seems not.

ba hop

what a sad story & full of 'holes'... there's only so many body cavities one can hide in...

Lupe Molina

This young woman overdosed in police custody twice, took two hours to get her from the hospital back to the jail only blocks away, and they don't know if SFPD personnel might have been the ones to pass her a second dose? And they're investigating themselves? Nobody sees a problem with this? Why aren't state police investigating? I hope the New Mexican will continue to follow this story.

Michael Grimler

There are lots of holes in the reporting of this story.

Lupe Molina

Sure are. And they should have been better searched.

Khal Spencer

Agree with Mike. Someone needs to fill the holes in this investigation, so to speak. RIP to the deceased, but in all honesty, we all make our own choices.

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