Police say Santa Fe boy is dangerous; his mom just wants him home
In a picture taken two weeks ago, 12-year-old Marcus Atencio looked like any other kid his age in Santa Fe.
Wearing a goofy grin, his light brown hair tousled, the seventh-grader posed for the camera alongside his coach after a tough championship game and a disappointing second-place finish in the Northern New Mexico Children’s Football League Zia Bowl.
“He’s holding back tears because they didn’t win first,” his mother, Angelique Roybal, said Monday as she gazed at the photo.
Over the weekend, police painted — and posted — a much different picture of the youngster.
A dangerous juvenile runaway.
“If you see Marcus do not approach him and immediately contact police by calling 911,” the Santa Fe Police Department wrote Saturday night on its Facebook page, which included a shirtless photo of Marcus that has been shared more than 800 times.
For Roybal and others who know Marcus, the description is a shocking and inconceivable depiction of someone they think of as a sweet boy.
“There’s no way that this little boy could be involved in something like this,” said Annmarie Villegas, the football league’s executive director. “We’ve had great dealings with him, so I was extremely surprised that he was even being accused of anything of this sort … Of what I know of him, none of it would be true.”
Police said Marcus is suspected of trafficking and possession of cocaine, as well as assault on a household member. He is also a suspect in a Nov. 13 robbery at Tractor Supply Co. just off Airport Road not far from N.M. 599.
“He was armed with a handgun,” police wrote in a Facebook post that sparked both vicious and sympathetic remarks online.
“I know his heart and he is a good person,” Mary Louise Romero-Betancourt wrote. “I also know that a lot of 12 year old are very impressionable.”
Roybal admits her son — the second of five children — is no angel.
Santa Fe police reported nine cases involving Marcus between 2014-18, including assault and battery and possession of marijuana.
Roybal said Marcus is both book and street smart, but he can be impulsive. She said he’s been to therapy and counseling for behavioral issues that seemed to get worse after his biological father was sent to prison about five months ago.
Roybal said Marcus’ father has been in and out of jail and in and out of her children’s lives.
Marcus “acts like it doesn’t [bother him], but I know it does,” she said. “I mean, it’s their dad. They’re going to pretend like they don’t care, but I know deep down, they’re missing him and probably upset that he’s not in their lives.”
Still, Roybal said her son isn’t a dangerous criminal. She said she called the police after her husband, Manuel Roybal, who is the father of her youngest child, found five plastic bags containing suspected cocaine in Marcus’ room.
“I’m not going to allow it in my life, and I don’t want my children to think it’s OK,” she said. “I wanted it out of my house, and I wanted it away from all the other children. I can’t just focus on one of them. I have to look at all of them.”
Marcus ran away before police arrived, possibly though a bathroom window, police said. Officers said he left behind a note that said, “See ya’,” along with some expletives.
While he may have been in possession of cocaine — when confronted by his stepfather Marcus claimed it was “crushed vitamins” — Roybal said the other accusations are bogus. She said police accused her son of assault on a household member for pouring milk and cereal over one of his siblings, and she said he couldn’t be guilty of armed robbery because her husband remembers Marcus being at home at the time of the robbery.
“They don’t have full proof,” she said during an interview at her double-wide mobile home. “The picture they showed me was crap. You couldn’t even see who it was. [The suspect was wearing] clothes he wouldn’t wear.”
But police Lt. Paul Joye said Marcus was positively identified on video surveillance images.
“He’s been identified to the extent he’s a person of interest,” he said. “There’s enough things matching up that we’re concerned.”
Joye said the suspect’s age is “kind of a shocking thing.”
“Twelve certainly seems young to be engaging in this type of activity,” he said.
Joye also defended the police department’s decision to post his photo on Facebook. It’s not unusual for police to post images of missing children or teens on its social media pages, but it’s rare for police to publicize a juvenile’s criminal record and background, let alone with a photo.
“We put him out there, too, because he’s missing,” Joye said.
Monday night, Roybal and members of her family planned to search for Marcus on the city’s southwest side, where the family lives.
His grandmother, Renee Quintana, who suspects Marcus is in the area, said she planned to search nearby drainage tunnels with a flashlight.
“My question is: Who in their right mind is going to sell or give cocaine to a 12-year-old kid to sell? Or not even just that, just give it to him? I don’t understand that,” she said. “Where is he going to get a handgun? That’s ridiculous.”
Quintana and Roybal believe unsavory characters are taking advantage of Marcus.
“He’s young,” his mother said. “He could be manipulated. He’s vulnerable.”
Roybal, a medical technician who works odd hours, said she’s trying her best to raise her children.
“They don’t come with manuals,” she said, adding that she has asked people at her son’s school and others for help.
Roybal said she’s had little sleep since Saturday but isn’t giving up on her son.
“Every horrible thought has already played through my mind,” she said as she drank a 20-ounce Red Bull to help her stay alert.
Roybal said she would want her son to know he can get his life back on track.
“I want him to come home to clear all these horrible things that are being said and to accept responsibility for anything he did do,” she said.
Staff writer Elayne Lowe contributed to this report.
Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.