Advocates, police mull solutions to dangers at Coronado Park

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “Everyone is carrying a weapon, almost everyone.”

It sounds like something out of a dystopian film but it is the situation at a notorious park full of Albuquerque’s homeless, crime and drugs.

Ongoing dangers at Coronado Park took another life this week as Andrew Aguilar was found shot to death in the park Tuesday.

Police say they’re looking at the impact of drugs on the park and how they cause a violent spiral – but Ralph DiPalma, who is constantly trying to help the homeless there, says that method is not helping.

“Handguns, kitchen knives, hammers, screwdrivers, pieces of steel, rocks in socks, sticks of all kinds sharpened at the end to make a point,” Ralph DiPalma said, when explaining the weapons he’s seen at the park.

DiPalma is dedicated to bettering the park and says he likely knew Aguilar. He says he ‘knows all of them in the park’ and suspects a common culprit among them could also be behind Aguilar’s murder.

“Fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin,” DiPalma said. “There’s no doubt, in our mind, the police are completely aware of the situation. However, we have no doubt their hands are tied.”

“We’re more focused on the trafficking of drugs and, citywide, that’s what we’re doing,” said Gilbert Gallegos, an APD spokesperson who says that investigators are watching the drug crime that often leads to violence.

“We see traffickers who are coming from other parts of the city – or even outside the city – and preying on some of the individuals at the park,” Gallegos added.

According to DiPalma, those drug dealers set up shop in the same area where our homeless are supposed to be getting help.

“They are trafficking throughout the night, back and forth between 8-to-10 drug houses surrounding the St. Martin’s Day Shelter,” he said.

DiPalma also says there are many more victims we never hear about – many he believes are targets of those within their community.

“The people who are really homeless have been continually in and in increasing danger from those out-of-control, repeat offender, tent-city, homeless people,” he said. “This is getting worse and this is getting worse and they refuse to take us seriously. There’s going to be more homicides.”

Police say they have mobile cameras and Shotspotter technology set up near Coronado Park but, citing an ongoing investigation, they say they can’t say if either are helping to identify a killer.

Now, Mayor Keller is putting pressure on Albuquerque City Council to pass a zoning change next week, which will open the doors to the Gateway Center. The mayor says that’s the only thing that will help conditions at Coronado Park.