Jim Walsh, AZ Central, January 27, 2015
The man accused of gunning down a Mesa convenience-store clerk over a pack of cigarettes was facing deportation proceedings but had been released from federal custody on bond, authorities said Monday.
Federal immigration authorities launched the proceedings two years ago against Apolinar Altamirano, but he was released on a $10,000 bond shortly after his conviction on a burglary charge.
While Altamirano, 29, was out of custody, two injunctions against harassment were issued against him by a Mesa Municipal Court judge. “I am in fear for my life,” one woman wrote, adding that Altamirano had threatened to kill her “plenty of times” and pointed a gun at her boyfriend, according to court records.
The latest order was served on Altamirano on Jan. 19. Three days later, he was accused of first-degree murder in the slaying of Grant Ronnebeck, 21, a Quik Trip clerk who was shot to death after Altamirano dumped a jar of change on a counter at 4 a.m. and demanded a pack of cigarettes.
Ronnebeck initially told Altamirano that he needed to give Ronnebeck the money before he could give him the cigarettes, but Altamirano responded, “You’re not gonna take my money,” and pointed a gun at the clerk, the document said.
Ronnebeck was handing over the cigarettes to Altamirano when a surveillance video captured Altamirano fatally shooting him and later stepping over his body to grab two packs of cigarettes, according to the court document. Police say they found the cigarettes when they took Altamirano into custody after a high-speed chase at 19th Avenue and Buckeye Road in Phoenix.
In statement released Monday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement acknowledged that Maricopa County Superior Court had informed the agency about Altamirano, that he had been taken into custody and was released pending the outcome of his case in immigration court.
Altamirano had pleaded guilty in 2012 to a reduced charge of facilitation to commit burglary and placed on two years of supervised probation, even though he had claimed ties to the Mexican Mafia after entering a woman’s apartment in Mesa after Mesa police had arrested her boyfriend on drug charges, court records show.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) assumed custody of Mr. Altamirano on January 3, 2013, following his conviction by the Superior Court of Arizona, Maricopa County, for Facilitation of Burglary in the Second Degree,” the ICE statement said.
“After reviewing his immigration and criminal history, which showed only this conviction, ICE determined that under applicable law, Mr. Altamirano was eligible for bond. Mr. Altamirano posted a $10,000 bond on January 7, 2013. Mr. Altamirano’s removal case was still pending with the immigration courts at the time of his most recent arrest.”