A domestic violence victim tried to save her family—she needed more help

Carmen Navarrete de Gonzales asked for help and tried to escape her domestic abuser. The 49-year-old mother and grandmother ended her relationship with Jose Antonio “Adrian” Roman, called 911 and filed a police report after an alleged October incident landed her in the hospital.

On Oct. 28, a Second Judicial District judge issued a felony arrest warrant for Roman, 44. Court documents indicate he was already on probation at that time over drunk-driving charges in Sandoval County.

Then, on Nov. 9 the court issued a protective order against Roman.

“He threatened me and said, ‘Before you send me to the police, I’ll kill you first,’” Navarrete wrote in her petition seeking the order, which forbade Roman from contacting her or her family in any way.

Still, it wasn’t enough to save her or her 15-year-old son, Axel Gonzales.

State Police, who investigated the Oct. 28 assault, and a spokeswoman for the Second Judicial District Court could not immediately answer SFR’s questions about why Roman was not arrested on those charges or picked up on the apparent probation violation they represented. He went on to shoot and kill the two on Nov. 13 after he stole a gun from a family member and drove from Albuquerque to Navarrete’s home off West Alameda Street in Santa Fe County.

One of Navarrete’s daughters, Priscilla Gonzales, described her mother in a GoFundMe page as “loving” and “hardworking” and said she always took care of and wanted the best for her children. Axel, she added, was a “happy and generous” brother.

“On Nov. 13, the lives of my mother Carmen and my brother Axel were taken in a horrible way,” Gonzales wrote in Spanish. “For now, we will only be able to see them in our memories.”

Axel attended Capital High School, according to a Facebook post from Santa Fe Public Schools. Members of the family declined SFR’s request for comment through a family friend.

Domestic violence prevention advocates say Navarrete’s situation had all the hallmarks of serious danger.

Sheila Lewis, a trainer and consultant for New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, tells SFR she always describes a protective order as “a piece of paper, and it’s not bulletproof.” Furthermore, the court order actually increases risk in domestic violence situations with guns.

“It’s a start in a process of trying to gain some control over your life, but when women go out and get the order of protection, if their perpetrator has a firearm, they’re five times more likely to get murdered,” Lewis says. “As much as I encourage women to get orders of protection, you also have to have a safety plan. And if you don’t have a safety plan, or you haven’t been working with a domestic violence shelter to develop a really effective safety plan, there is a lot of danger involved.”

A safety plan has to be personal, Lewis says, but it could involve having a friend who could take care of the person in an emergency situation; checking for trackers on the person’s phone or car and more.

Lewis says New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence urges law enforcement first-responders in domestic violence cases to use a lethality assessment, which measures the level of danger for victims.

“It’s a very good tool for screening, and when the tool is used properly and law enforcement is trained to use it, they say to the person that they’ve screened, ‘I just screened you for lethality and based on my experience in my professional judgment, you are at high risk for being murdered by your partner,’ and to use those terrifying words so that they understand this is a lethal situation, not just a dangerous situation,” she says.

She calls domestic violence “an equal opportunity terror,” that affects people who speak all languages and come from various backgrounds, which is why she’s grateful for laws aimed at the problem.

Yet the state’s most recent high-profile effort to curb domestic violence by gun, the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act, better known as the red flag law, wouldn’t have necessarily helped Navarrete. In the first reported domestic violence incident, Roman allegedly wielded a rifle and struck her with it. The law targets people who exhibit symptoms of mental health issues or dangerous behavior. But it requires time-consuming court intervention.

Lewis, who teaches a course about the law to officers and dispatchers at the state Law Enforcement Academy, says the law could be improved. For one, some judges require the cooperation of a potential victim, many of whom don’t want to testify. Lewis adds even if the court grants a petition, it orders a person to give up firearms and doesn’t authorize law enforcement to seize the weapons, which she says is “pretty unrealistic.”

Police arrested Roman in Albuquerque Nov. 15. He faces 16 felony charges, including two counts of first-degree murder. A detention and preliminary hearing in the First Judicial District Court is scheduled for Dec. 5. and prosecutors argue Navarrete’s family won’t be safe if Roman is released pending trial.

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