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2 men were arrested in the drive-by killing of 11-year-old boy, a case that helped prompt New Mexico’s controversial gun ban

By Marlon Sorto, CNN

(CNN) — Two men have been charged in the drive-by shooting of an 11-year-old boy in New Mexico – one of several recent killings cited by the state’s governor before she enacted a controversial order suspending open and concealed gun carry laws in parts of the state.

Jose Romero, 22, and Nathen Garley, 21, are facing several charges, including first-degree murder, in the killing of Froylan Villegas, according to the Albuquerque Police Department. Froylan had left a baseball game in Albuquerque on September 6 and was sitting in the front passenger seat as his cousin drove when “at least 14 rounds” were fired into their vehicle, a news release from the department states.

The boy died of his wounds. His cousin was critically injured and is still in the hospital, according to the department. Froylan’s mother and infant brother were in the back seat of the truck but weren’t hurt, though authorities say two rounds barely missed the infant who was in a car seat behind Froylan.

The tragic incident, which Chief Harold Medina on Thursday called a “case of mistaken identity,” was one of several recent shootings that spurred Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to declare gun violence and drug abuse as a public health emergency.

The governor’s emergency order, which she issued September 8 – just two days after Froylan’s killing – included a 30-day suspension of open and concealed carry laws in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County and temporarily banned the carrying of guns on public property with certain exceptions.

Less than a week later, a federal judge prevented enforcement of parts of the ban until a preliminary injunction hearing is held in the coming weeks, according to statements from Grisham’s office and a gun rights advocacy group that filed a lawsuit over the ban, CNN previously reported.

Romero was arrested in Albuquerque on Thursday, Medina said during a news conference. Garley had been in custody since September 13, when he was arrested during a traffic stop by a New Mexico State Police trooper, who allegedly found nearly 100,000 fentanyl tablets while searching his car, State Police Chief Troy Weisler said at the news conference.

Weisler said authorities searched the phones of Garley and a female who was also in the vehicle at the time and discovered “they have been involved and had relations to individuals that were involved in the shooting.” He said they alerted Albuquerque police “so that we could bring this case to a close.”

Weisler did not provide additional information about the female who was traveling with Garley but said a separate investigation into the drugs allegedly found in Garley’s car is underway.

CNN has reached out to the New Mexico State Police and Homeland Security Investigations, which is also investigating the case, to get more information but has not heard back.

Albuquerque police detectives received several tips after a description of the black Dodge Durango was made public and were able to identify the suspects and get leads, according to the police news release.

A public defender was appointed to Garley but Romero’s case, as of Friday, was not in the system, New Mexico Law Offices of the Public Defender spokesperson Maggie Shepard told CNN Friday.

CNN has reached out to Froylan’s family members and to Governor Lujan Grisham’s press office but has not heard back.

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