Damian Herrera from La Madera in northern New Mexico got into an argument with his stepfather on Thursday after being told he couldn’t use his stepfather’s car.
Herrera wanted to use his stepfather’s car to attend an appointment, but when Max Trujillo said no, Damian instead used his stepfather’s own gun to kill him outside his home. KRQE News reported there were many witnesses there at the time of the shooting, including Herrera’s sister who witnessed the murder of three of her family members.
Initially, Herrera’s mother was on life support, but it’s now been confirmed she has passed away.
Damian Herrera has been charged with five murders, leaving his family and friends heartbroken. On Friday, Herrera appeared in Rio Arriba County Magistrate Court via video arraignment and showed little or no emotion as the judge went through the charges for all five first-degree murders. The only emotion he showed was when the shooting of his mother was brought up. A judge denied him bond, saying he’s a threat to the community.
Connie Ortega lives across the street with her husband, Jimmy, and was among the first to hear about the shootings after Herrera’s sister banged on the door asking for help.
“It breaks your heart. That’s how we are, heartbroken. She just said, ‘I need help. My brother killed Brendon, my mom and Max. They’re dead.”
Herrera’s sister witnessed everything unfolding as Herrera shot his stepfather. Brendon Herrera, his brother, tried to stop Damian by pinning him against the carport, and that’s when Damian shot his brother. Damian’s mother, Brenda Gallegos, ran to help her son and that’s when Damian shot her. Witnesses say that Herrera shot his mother as she pleaded for her life.
Herrera fled from the home, then headed north towards Tres Piedras where he shot and killed a man by the name of Michael Kyte along Forest Road near Taos. Apparently, Kyte had given Damian a ride after he ran out of gas, and Damian shot him after stealing his truck.
According to a Taos County commissioner, Kyte had recently retired from the Tres Piedras Ranger District where he worked for years as an archaeologist.
Herrera then killed Manuel Serrano at Bodes Gas Station in Abiquiu. From there he was chased by police where he later crashed on Highway 84. A fight ensued between deputies and Herrera, during which he was tasered and arrested.
The New York Post reported that the killing spree spanned nearly 200 miles across New Mexico. Court documents show that Herrera had made troubling statements to family members about his intention to kill or hurt people for fun.
After Herrera had killed three family members and the owner of a car he hijacked, he shot another man at a general store in the town that artist Georgia O’Keeffe calls home. The victim was a security guard at O’Keeffe’s home.
Family members told police that Damian Herrera was very calm. They said he had a blank stare as he opened fire, as if he knew exactly what he was doing.
During a news conference, State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said, “None of these victims had a chance, none of them.”
Herrera was finally caught after sheriff’s deputies saw and then chased the stolen pickup.
After Herrera crashed into a tree, he got out of the vehicle and ran towards the deputies, trying to grab one of their guns. A stun gun was used on Herrera and he was taken into custody.
Kyle Frettem took classes at the University of New Mexico with Damian Herrera and went on hiking trips with him. He said he hadn’t spoken to Herrera in about a year, but described him as someone who was searching for inner peace.
“He was the kind of guy who would go out into the mountains and meditate. People can change pretty drastically in a year, but someone like this, it’s like no way.”
Herrera had no criminal record, other than two traffic citations.
[Featured Image by New Mexico State Police/AP Images]