The chief in a Friday interview was upset over derogatory comments he read about the victim on social media – posted, said the chief, by people who never knew Najera – and also the fact someone stole a statue of St. Thomas that was part of a shrine neighbors built in front of Najera’s ramshackle, unheated trailer at a Walnut Lane trailer court.
“This wasn’t just some guy,” said Winder. “People cared for him.” The chief said two of Najera’s relatives arrived in Moab and are struggling to find a way to get his body back to Mexico, where his mother is hospitalized “in dire condition.”
“Somebody stole a statue of the victim’s patron saint,” said a seething Winder, softly tapping the top of his desk. “Can you imagine what kind of karma is in store for that person?”
A subdued group of Najera’s friends gathered in front of the victim’s faded red trailer on Nov. 1, where religious items were mingled with a couple of beers and a handful of Snickers candy bars. Nobody agreed to go on the record, but they respectfully stood aside when asked if photographs could be taken.
They were aware the man who allegedly shot and killed Najera in the victim’s own home had been captured the night before, but that knowledge seemed to bring little relief. Nobody is really certain of the actual name of the alleged killer. Court documents filed Oct. 30 list him as Omar Guerro, 30, but he also goes by Omar Guerra, Irving Martin Verduzco-Armenta (the name he is booked under in the Coconino County Jail in Flagstaff) and Martin Armenta Lopez.
The two men who police say helped Guerro escape detection also go by different names. They were with him during the Arizona pursuit and are booked under the names Jorge Hernandez Ayala and Jaime Flores-Solis, both 32.
Guerro faces a first-degree murder charge. Witnesses reportedly told investigators he shot Najera in the torso and a few seconds later, they said, he deliberately placed the handgun at the victim’s head and fired. Hernandez and Flores-Solis face obstruction charges. “We believe they helped facilitate Omar’s escape,” said Winder, adding charges could be amended as the investigation continues.
The pursuit began at about 8 p.m. Halloween night when an officer with the Navajo Nation Police Department responded to a report of suspicious activity involving three men in a Chevrolet Avalanche. The men drove off and the officer gave chase, but lost them on a dirt road near Tuba City, according to a statement from the Moab Police.
Later that night, another officer spotted their vehicle and another chase began, featuring officers from the Navajo Nation and Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers that lasted nearly 100 miles. An overheated radiator disabled the vehicle and the three men ran on foot before they were captured, according to police.
It is unclear if any weapons were recovered.
While witnesses at the scene of the killing contacted police right after the crime took place, another witness gave police a possible destination to which the three might have been headed. According to court documents regarding Flores-Solis’ alleged role in the murder and the subsequent getaway, the witness called Moab Police from his Green River home on Oct. 30 after seeing news accounts of the killing on television. He said his friend, Flores-Solis, borrowed his Chevy Avalanche to drive to a location an hour south of Las Vegas with supposed plans to return the next day. The man said he recognized Guerro when the television news program showed his photograph.
Police, according to court documents, also found methamphetamine in the Walnut Lane home. They believe the meth belonged to Hernandez, who was a roommate of the victim’s. Both Hernandez and Flores-Solis are Moab residents. Guerro arrived in town less than two months ago, said Winder.
Autopsy results confirm Najera was shot twice. One .40-caliber round passed through his torso and a second went through his head, according to court papers.
Winder said he doesn’t believe the three men are part of an organized gang or Mexican cartel members, but they were certainly ruthless, according to court documents. Police said witnesses confirmed the three men were present at the home when the fatal shooting occurred at about 1:30 a.m.
One witness told police the three men dragged them from the home to a black SUV immediately after the shooting, but that they were not forced to get in with the men. Instead, Flores-Solis allegedly told the witness not to tell anyone, including police.
Winder said an aircraft is available to fly to Flagstaff if the men waive extradition back to Utah, but he doesn’t expect any of them to return voluntarily.
They all have immigration holds. Winder said it is not known what their residency status might be and Immigration and Customs Enforcement put the hold in place while the issue is investigated.