Kenneth Bolagh

Two Belen men have been charged in the shooting death of a Portales man.

Kenneth Bolagh, 24, and Vidal Ortega Jr., 47, have been charged with multiple crimes after Brian Johnson, 28, of Portales, was shot and killed in late August.

The shooting took place at a home on Yucca Place, about three miles south of Belen.

A Valencia County grand jury indicted Bolagh last week on numerous charges, including first-degree murder, two counts of tampering with evidence and one count of receiving stolen property, a firearm, specifically a Hi-Point .380 caliber pistol.

Vidal Ortega Jr.

Ortega Jr. is charged with harboring or aiding a felon for helping Bolagh, tampering with evidence and felon in possession of a firearm. He was released from jail on Sept. 9 after being put on a GPS monitoring device.

New Mexico State Police were called to the home on Sunday, Aug. 25, and found Johnson, who had been shot once in the head. He was transported to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where he died due to his injuries three days later on Aug. 28.

During the investigation, NMSP learned Bolagh and Ortega drove to the house and, while there, Bolagh and Johnson got into an argument.

Bolagh, who was sitting in the backseat of a car driven by Ortega, allegedly fired several rounds from a .380 caliber handgun at Johnson, who was in a second vehicle.

According to the criminal complaint, Ortega and a second witness at the home told officers Bolagh fired three shots, while Bolagh told NMSP investigators he fired at Johnson twice.

Bolagh and Ortega fled the scene but were later taken into custody without incident and booked into the Valencia County Detention Center.

According to the press release, the gun used in the shooting was recovered and is believed to be stolen from a location in Torrance County.

On Sept. 3, the state filed a motion for pretrial detention of Bolagh. District Court Judge Cindy Mercer granted the motion on Sept. 6, ordering that Bolagh be held at VCDC without bond.

In the motion, 13th Judicial District Assistant District Attorney Robyn Simms ran down a laundry list of charges against Bolagh that are both pending and have been dismissed.

“… no release conditions for this defendant will reasonably protect the safety of any other person or the community,” Simms wrote in the motion. “The defendant has had at least nine cases filed in magistrate and district courts since 2013, several of which involve violent crimes.

“However, most of these cases have been disposed of by way of dismissal due to competency issues. The nature and seriousness of the two present pending cases demonstrate that the defendant is a danger to any person in the community.”

According to the motion, in addition to the charges in connection with the Aug. 25 shooting, Bolagh is charged with crimes including abuse of a child, aggravated battery, distribution of a controlled substance, breaking and entering, receiving stolen property and criminal trespass.

The other pending case against Bolagh is from November 2018. He is accused of shooting a man in the leg with a shotgun that had been modified by attaching a metal pipe.

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.