Home Law and Courts Murder suspect arrested at cousin’s place

Murder suspect arrested at cousin’s place

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A murder suspect with a face full of tattoos apparently found it difficult blending into the crowd while on the lam last weekend.

Police said Steven A. Salazar hid out in his cousin’s apartment complex southeast of Hobbs High School after allegedly shooting and killing a man in cold blood Thursday morning.

After receiving numerous tips, Hobbs police and later a SWAT team responded to the apartment complex in the 2000 block of East Clinton Street Friday night. Following a standoff that lasted about an hour and a half, police said Salazar surrendered early Saturday. His cousin, Scotty Casillas, was also arrested.

Salazar, aka “Smiley,” is accused of fatally shooting 26-year-old Arnulfo Barrientos-Ibarra Thursday morning at a home in the 1000 block of South Elm Street. Police said Ibarra died of a single gunshot wound to the head. Prosecutors said Salazar and another man came to Ibarra’s home earlier Thursday and Ibarra asked them to leave after Salazar reportedly fired a gun under a carport.

According to court records, police said Ibarra and his male companion returned. Salazar, 30, of Hobbs, allegedly shot Ibarra after being asked again to leave.

“(Salazar’s male companion) believed Salazar was under the influence of drugs,” states a pre-trial detention motion. “When Salazar was told to leave the residence, he started to look for a key, but (his companion) did not know what key Salazar was talking about. (His companion) told (a police officer) that Salazar had not been threatened and did not seem angry. (His companion) witnessed Salazar shoot Arnulfo in the head with a brown-handled gun, then run from the residence.”

The Hobbs Police Department issued a news release and photo of Salazar Thursday night, asking for the public’s help in finding him. They said investigators learned Salazar shot Ibarra and left the scene prior to officers arriving. Police said Ibarra’s roommate and another man were present at the home when Ibarra was killed.

A warrant for Salazar’s arrest was issued Thursday on charges of murder, a second-degree felony, and felon in possession of a firearm, a fourth-degree felony.

Interim Police Chief Brian Dunlap said authorities received numerous tips about Salazar’s whereabouts, although not necessarily because of his unique facial tattoos, including a tip that he had fled to the Las Cruces area.

“I would just say his unique characteristics led to several tips,” Dunlap said. “To be fair though, some of the tips were not based on appearance. They simply knew who he was.”

A Hobbs officer said he received a tip Friday night that Salazar was at The Hobbs Apartments. The officer said he heard Salazar’s voice coming from inside an apartment, and another officer said he saw Salazar looking out a window.

Police said several officers shouted verbal commands for Salazar to come out with his hands up, but they said he would not. Police said a sergeant then used a public address system to order all occupants of the apartment to come out, but none of them did.

Police said an officer established verbal negotiations with Salazar while the HPD SWAT team was activated.

“Steven came to the door, cracked it open and talked with Officer K. Martinez,” states the criminal complaint against Casillas. “Steven was observed doing this several times, for about an hour.”

Police said SWAT team members began to arrive and relieved officers on the scene.

“He stayed inside of the apartment approximately an hour and half,” Dunlap said. “However, officers were communicating with him. He came out of the apartment and was placed under arrest at approximately 1:30 a.m.”

Casillas was detained by SWAT officers inside the apartment and interviewed by police.

“Scotty was uncooperative and transported to the Hobbs City Jail,” states the criminal complaint.

Police noted an officer made contact with Casillas at his apartment at about 8 p.m. Friday, before Salazar was discovered at the apartment.

“Officer Jaimes advised while speaking to Scotty, he advised he would not give up his cousin, Smiley, even after being informed of his active warrants,” states the criminal complaint. “Due to Scotty’s knowledge via social media and officer Jaimes informing him earlier this date about Steven’s active felony warrants, Scotty’s statement about not giving him up and refusing to exit and/or cooperate with detectives, I believe probable cause to exist to charge Scotty with aiding and abetting a felon.”

Prosecutors said Salazar has an extensive, violent criminal history dating back to 2007 when he was a teenager. His prior convictions entail two convictions of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, two convictions of possession of a firearm by a felon, and a conviction of aggravated battery upon a peace officer.

Salazar was arrested earlier this month in connection to the April 29 shooting of a Hobbsman at a home in the 500 block of East Park Street. The victim was shot four times, but survived. Police said Salazar’s fingerprints were found on a car parked in the victim’s driveway, and the victim identified Salazar as his shooter.

A warrant for Salazar’s arrest was issued May 24 for the Park Street shooting. He was arrested July 5 and charged with aggravated battery, a third-degree felony, and possession of a firearm by a felon, a fourth-degree felony, and then released on a $3,000 unsecured bond.

Salazar was arrested again by the HPD on July 10 on a felony drug charge after a 12:12 a.m. traffic stop just west of the intersection of North Turner and West Sanger streets.

Police said Salazar’s vehicle contained 1.3 grams of heroin and he admitted he is a drug addict. After being charged with possession of a controlled substance, a fourth-degree felony, Salazar was released July 11 after posting $500 of a $5,000 cash or surety bond.

Salazar is scheduled to appear before District Judge William Shoobridge at 1 p.m. today for a pre-trial detention hearing. Prosecutors said Salazar poses a danger to the community and is a flight risk. If approved by Shoobridge, Salazar would be held without bond until his murder trial.

“Defendant has had many prior felony convictions and is facing a substantial amount of jail time for this pending case along with the other two pending felony cases,” states the expedited motion for pre-trial detention. “The State submits that clear and convincing evidence demonstrates that no conditions of release will reasonably ensure the safety of the community.”

Jeff Tucker may be reached at managingeditor@hobbsnews.com .

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