Updated: July 14, 2020 06:24 PM
Created: July 14, 2020 06:15 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Coronado Park in Albuquerque saw its third homicide this year after a man was beaten to death Monday evening.
Ralph DiPalma, a volunteer minister, said issues at the park have only been growing worse.
"Instead of straightening out the problem, it's becoming increasingly dangerous,” DiPalma said.
"There are many homicides among the homeless unreported, deliberate drug overdoses and missing persons," he added.
DiPalma has dedicated most of his life trying to serve the homeless almost every night at Coronado Park.
A spokesperson for APD said the department was cleaning out the park right before the latest homicide occurred. The victim was identified as 49-year-old Randy Hillard. DiPalma said he knew him well.
"We talk to Randy all the time. We bought him a bus ticket back to Texas. He didn't stay in Texas, he came back here because Albuquerque has become a sanctuary city for the repeat offender, homeless men and women,” he said.
DiPalma said Hillard was a known drug addict that got himself into trouble.
"We have a lot invested in Randy. We got him into drug and alcohol programs, and he refused to stay,” he said.
DiPalma said they’ve tried to engage with the mayor and wrote him a letter with more than a dozen business signatures asking for help.
"Ten months, no real answer—just a makeshift response,” he said.
Mayor Keller sent KOB 4 the following response to the latest Coronado murder:
"It isn't about whether the park will become an issue at some point--it already is and has been. We have already taken steps to improve the park including gating, lighting, regular cleanup and patrol. Until we get the Gateway Center built we are worried about continued violence and challenges with our homeless community. The Gateway Center will get vulnerable people off the streets and into permanent housing even as we tackle violent crime from the APD side with both enforcement and prevention. Improving Coronado Park means tackling the underlying public safety issues, and that's our focus."
An APD spokesperson said the new APD Valley Commander is focusing police resources on the park and that they’re clearing it out every night to prevent people from sleeping there.
“You know, I'm not sure what you mean by a public nuisance, but it is a focal point for the department. We want to prevent violence and I think we've been doing a pretty good job lately, but we've had these homicides that are concerning,” said APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos.
APD said they’re continuing to do undercover drug operations, outreach for the homeless and working with neighborhood partners.
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