The early morning discovery of a man dead from an apparent gunshot wound in Santa Fe’s Ragle Park on Wednesday has left area residents rattled.
“We just can’t understand what in the world happened,” Percilla Lopez tells SFR in the park on Thursday. “It’s really just shocking, especially here.”
Lopez and a group of friends like to meet at the park in the morning to play Bingo, but when they arrived on Wednesday the area where they usually sit was blocked off with crime scene tape. The Santa Fe Police Department had responded to a “man down call” and are investigating the death of Samuel Cordero, 60, as a homicide.
Meanwhile, SFPD officials have remained mum on the case since issuing a pair of news releases on Wednesday in which they announced that a body had been found and, later, identifying Cordero.
The first release said he’d suffered at least one fatal gunshot wound. SFR asked the department for a copy of the police report, but Deputy Police Chief Ben Valdez sent us through the city’s online records request portal. He later said the agency has until Aug. 16 to respond. Valdez then said he would have Capt. Aaron Ortiz call SFR to discuss the case, but Ortiz did not do so before publication time.
Ragle is a popular park among locals to play baseball and walk dogs. Several people who spoke with SFR say the killing has left them unsettled.
“It really surprised me that they actually found somebody dead here,” Georgianna Gonzales says. “I’ve always considered it to be pretty safe. I was a little hesitant to come walking after I heard that.”
The park is located about two miles from the MorningStar Assisted Living and Memory Care of Santa Fe, where Cordero worked as a medical technician. Cordero left work around 2 am Wednesday. When he hadn’t returned to his home in Pojoaque by 8:30 am, his mother, Yvonne Harvey, with whom he lived, began calling his phone.
There was no answer.
“Something told me something was wrong,” Harvey tells SFR. Harvey’s daughter “started calling the phone and then somebody heard it ringing and picked it up off the side of the road and answered it. I talked to that person and he told me how he found the phone.”
The person who answered the phone had found it on the side of Rodeo Road, Harvey says, which is “just weird,” because “he never kept his phone in a plastic bag.” Police are working to pry clues from the phone, such as whether Cordero spoke with anyone prior to the shooting.
After the unexpected stranger answered Cordero’s phone, the family called police and gave a description of him. About an hour and a half later, two detectives arrived on her front doorstep and said her son was dead. Investigators offered few details, she says.
“All I know is he was shot, but they didn’t even tell me that. I had to read that on the news,” she says, adding that she was told Cordero’s car was found at the park. “I can’t imagine why he was there.”
Cordero and Harvey moved from Duluth, Minnesota, to Pojoaque in 2010. She had just retired and wanted to move closer to her eldest daughter and find a warmer climate. A “kind and giving person,” Harvey says, she never expected her son to not return home one day.
“I can’t imagine why anybody would hurt him, and there’s no way he would hurt anybody else unless he was trying to protect somebody,” she says. “He didn’t like guns, he didn’t like violence. He was a very sweet man.”
Santiago Morales, who lives next door to Ragle Park, tells SFR he heard “two or three gunshots” that morning. While he normally walks his dog there, he says he’s probably going to find a different route.
Many of the neighbors who spoke with SFR were shocked to hear about Cordero’s death.
However, Carlos Napoli, who says he visits the park every day, wasn’t surprised, telling SFR he notices suspicious activity occurring regularly during the evenings.
“There’s all types of things happening here all the time,” Napoli says.
Crime Stoppers has offered a $1,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for Cordero’s death. Those with any information can call Det. Rebecca Hilderbrandt at 505-955-5265, or Crime Stoppers at 505-955-5050.