Storrie Lake shooter sentenced for murder; trial pending for alleged second shooter

Storrie Lake shooter sentenced for murder; trial pending for alleged second shooter

From the Las Vegas Optic

One of the two men accused of shooting and killing 16-year-old Adelina Tafoya in July 2020 pleaded guilty Monday to multiple felonies as part of a plea agreement.

Roger Tait-Gomez, 31, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder during a virtual appearance in District Court Monday afternoon. Under the plea agreement, Tait-Gomez avoids going to trial and will have narcotics charges in another case against him dropped.

Tafoya’s family and family of others shot by Tait-Gomez on that July evening addressed the court during the hearing.

Seven people spoke, providing emotional and often raw comments about how devastating the loss of Tafoya has been, and how trauma endured as a result of her death and the shooting follows them in their daily lives.

Dressed in an orange jail-issued shirt and a white face mask, Tait-Gomez sat quietly as family members and victims of the shooting spoke.

Briana Saiz, Tafoya’s sister, said she’s been questioning how Tait-Gomez could take Tafoya’s life.

“How could you have took something so precious, and so innocent?” she asked, her voice wavering as she spoke.

Saiz told Tait-Gomez that New Mexico laws had worked in his favor this time, adding that 25 years in prison is not enough for the loss she and her family are experiencing.

“I don’t hate you. I don’t hold no resentment,” she said through tears. “I hope God can forgive you, because me and my family never will.”

Tafoya’s father, Richard Tafoya, said he didn’t have much to add, but addressing Tait-Gomez directly, he said, “As a man I can forgive, but as a father I can’t.”

Fourth Judicial District Attorney Tom Clayton read a statement from Brianna Leyba, who was 16 at the time of the shooting. Leyba was also shot in the head, and though she survived, she has lost hearing in her right ear, and still suffers many complications from the shooting.

“This crime has ruined my life because I am unable to do things on my own,” Leyba said in her statement. “Now I depend on help from my family to do everyday things like walking and bathing.”

Leyba said she also has problems with memory, often relying on family members to help her remember past events.

Tait-Gomez did not address the court when given the option, but his attorney, Ray Allen Floersheim, addressed the court on his behalf.

“My client, as I have said, has accepted responsibility,” Floersheim said. “What happened was sad. It should not have happened, and we’re sorry for it.”

During sentencing, Judge Flora Gallegos called the crimes “callous acts,” drawing attention to the fact that those Tait-Gomez shot were children.

“I really do hope that your time in prison gives you time to reflect on the seriousness of the offenses, and the damage you’ve done to not only the victims, but their friends and their family,” Gallegos said.

Under the plea agreement, Tait-Gomez pleaded guilty to eight felony counts: second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, shooting at or from a motor vehicle, two counts of aggravated battery and three counts of aggravated assault.

Tait-Gomez faced a total of 37 1/2 years behind bars. Under the agreement, 12 1/2 years of the sentence were suspended, to be served on supervised parole after release from prison. Additionally, 595 days of confinement will be applied to his sentence for time already served since his arrest on July 28, 2020.

Forthcoming trial

A second man still faces charges in the 2020 shooting. Nico L. Barela, 32, is scheduled to go on trial this July.

The night Tafoya was killed, Tait-Gomez was driving a silver Nissan Pathfinder with Barela as a passenger. The two were searching for two people who’d stolen cash and heroin from a drug dealer a day earlier, according to affidavits filed in San Miguel Magistrate Court in July 2020.

Tait-Gomez began following a Mercedes driven by Tafoya, with five passengers inside — ranging in age from 14 to 17. Tait-Gomez followed the Mercedes through residential areas and then to an area near the entrance to Storrie Lake State Park.

When the teens exited the vehicle to see who was following them, Tait-Gomez and Barela opened fire, Tait-Gomez with a .40-caliber handgun, and Barela with a 9 mm handgun, according to court records.

Tafoya was shot in the head and died soon after. Brianna Leyba, 16 at the time, was shot in the back of her head, and a boy, 15 at the time, was shot in the arm.

District Attorney Clayton told the Optic his office will be seeking prosecution of Barela as the gunman who killed Tafoya.

“The evidence, as we understand it, provides that Barela was the shooter of the deceased young lady,” Clayton said.

Barela is charged with first-degree murder, three counts aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, shooting at or from a motor vehicle, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. He is also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Barela is scheduled to go on trial beginning July 12 in District Court. He remains in custody at the San Miguel County Detention Center.