Santa Fe Police discovered Samuel Cordero’s car in the parking lot at Ragle Park, where the 60-year-old was shot and killed in the early morning hours on Aug. 10.
The car never should have been there, but the gate to the parking lot off Yucca Street, meant to keep out traffic after 10 pm, was broken. It has been for months.
SFPD Capt. Aaron Ortiz says officers are aware the gate has been out, and they try to patrol parks as calls for service allow. The barrier would have stopped Cordero from pulling into the lot, but whether it would have prevented his death is “hard to say,” Ortiz tells SFR.
“If somebody really wants to get somewhere, they’re going to get there, no matter what,” he says. “It’s hard to determine whether Mr. Cordero would have parked outside the gate and walked in, if he was there for a specific reason or if the suspect was there for a specific reason.”
Police have not identified a suspect in the fatal shooting, and they’ve released few details about their investigation.
The gate at Ragle is one of several across the city needing attention, Parks Operations Manager Skyler Nielsen says. Another at General E Franklin Miles Park is out, while many of the barriers at the city’s older parks are beat up from car collisions or from being broken into, he says. The two broken gates have been out since Nielsen began working with the city five months ago.
“We’re looking into possibly updating our gate system citywide, so we’re kind of holding off a bit on fixing them, because it’s possible that we try to update all of our gates, even the ones that are currently working,” Nielsen says, adding that the parks department is putting together a proposal for funding and getting quotes on what the improvements would cost.
Many neighborhood residents who spoke to SFR were surprised to hear of the shooting, saying Ragle is usually safe and quiet, at least during the day. At night, though, park goers say they’re accustomed to seeing suspicious activity. The broken gate, meanwhile, has Santa Feans like Dawn Barela concerned.
“It’s such a big area and I’m sure it’s very, very dark,” she says. “I won’t come here at night now because of that. I was a little bit worried about coming here [today].”
Santa Fe’s parks and plazas are open to the public from 6 am to 10 pm, although signs notifying people of the curfew differ from park to park. Nielsen says the parks department recently received new signs to put in each location, and now it’s just a matter of finding the time to install them.
Investigators executed a search warrant on Cordero’s vehicle, Ortiz says, and they’re still processing the evidence found inside. He declined to discuss the evidence.
Police also have Cordero’s phone, which was found away from the park. Cordero’s mother, Yvonne Harvey, told SFR last week that a stranger had found it in a plastic bag and answered it after she began calling when he didn’t show up at the home they share following his shift at the Morningstar Assisted Living and Memory Care center.
“We’re looking at evidence that has been pulled off the phone and also there’s limitations within that data,” Ortiz says. “So we’re trying to get further assistance from outside agencies to see if we can get further into that phone.”
The only camera in the area detectives are aware of was installed by the Santa Fe Little League, and it only records during games. That means there’s no video evidence from the time of the shooting.
Crime Stoppers has offered a $1,000 award for any information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for Cordero’s death. SFPD is asking anyone with information about the case to call Det. Rebecca Hilderbrandt at (505) 955-5265, or Crime Stoppers at (505) 955-5050.