Emilio Romero was much more than someone who cleaned the Plano Bazaar parking lot.
The 69-year-old Plano father had a daughter, who lived in Garland for a while and recently moved to Oklahoma, recalls Karla Guadalupe Paz, a friend from a neighborhood convenience store. He also had an ex-wife, whom he didn’t like to discuss. Any time Guadalupe Paz would bring up his ex-wife, he would say, “Let’s not talk about sad things.”
An El Salvador native, Romero was known by his nickname “Speedy” — short for the Looney Tunes character “Speedy Gonzales.” And his friends claim he was a caring person, who was always kind and respectful. He was known to share his food with others, “even if it was his last bite,” Guadalupe Paz says.
Last week, Romero was stabbed multiple times while cleaning the parking lot at the Plano Bazaar. He later died at an area hospital. The suspect — 54-year-old Artemio Flores-Yanez — was arrested a few miles away. Plano police are still early into their investigation and aren’t sure if there was a connection between the suspect and the victim. The suspect’s motive remains unclear.
Plano Police Public Information Officer David Tilley told Local Profile in a June 9 email that the suspect has an immigration detainer, but he didn't provide further details.
“Every time I saw him, he would always walk up to me just to say hi, even if he was just picking up his trash,” Guadalupe Paz says. “He would leave his little cart there in the parking lot, just walk up and say hi. He was just the sweetest person, and he’s gone for no reason.”
A friend's meeting
About four years ago, Romero walked into the convenience store where Guadalupe Paz works for a break from his job cleaning the Plano Bazaar parking lot. Gaudalupe had been working at the convenience store for a few months and had already met all kinds of people from the Collin County area.
Yet, there was something different about Romero. He was quiet, shy and calm.
That first time turned into a million times, she says. Every time he stopped by, he made sure to greet Guadalupe Paz. After he became a regular customer, he asked Guadalupe Paz if she liked her job. When she asked him why, he said it was because she always seemed so happy, and he told her to take advantage of being able to work indoors, safe from Texas’ tumultuous weather.
Romero, she says, became the most liked person to visit the convenience store. The two became friends and exchanged numbers. He would call her now and then to make sure she was doing okay, and she would call him to do the same.
The last time she would ever speak to Romero occurred just days before he was stabbed to death in the parking lot. He had called her to let her know that he was doing okay. Before he hung up, he told her “to take care and not to drink that much.”
“It's just hurtful to know he's gone now,” Guadalupe Paz says. “Like one day he's here laughing with us, and then the next day he's just gone for doing nothing wrong.”
A friend's loss
Guadalupe Paz found out about Romero’s death when her mother called and told her. She couldn’t believe it. She started searching for Romero’s best friend, Arturo, because they were always together. She finally found him when she met her mother at the scene of the crime shortly after police arrived on scene at 6 p.m. June 8.
With tears streaming down his face, Arturo was desperately trying to get past police officers, she says, to see his best friend and find out what happened.
“People that I had seen around [the crime scene] said that [Flores-Yanez] was chasing [Romero] around the parking lot,” Guadlupe Paz says. “I just didn’t even want to believe it.”
At that point, police weren’t sure what had happened. Tilley claimed that Romero had been stabbed with “a knife of some type.”
“We don’t have many answers right now,” he wrote in his June 9 email. “The other questions are also questions of ours and part of the investigation.”
Luckily, a witness had followed the suspect to the K Avenue and Dobie Drive area in Plano. When Plano police officers arrived, Flores-Yanez was inside of his car in a parking lot. They arrested him in connection with the stabbing and took him to the Plano City Jail. Flores-Yanez refused to identify himself to officers, so they had to rely on his fingerprints to learn his name.
Guadalupe Paz knew Flores-Yanez because she said he would come into the convenience store from time-to-time. But she says they rarely spoke and never saw Romero talk with him either. She asked Arturo if he knew him, but she says that he didn’t know him, either.
“I don't know why he would do that to him,” Guadalupe Paz says.
When news spread online about Romero’s death, Guadalupe Paz began reading the comments on the Plano police’s Facebook post. People were claiming that he was an “illegal alien” and speculating that he was involved in drugs.
“He was a nice, respectful person who never did drugs,” she says. “He worked hard for his money, and he's actually a [U.S.] resident. He has his papers. He's not an illegal alien like everyone's calling him.”
But Tilley wrote that he doesn’t know Romero’s immigration status.
On Sunday, Guadalupe Paz found out that Romero's best friend, Arturo, went to the hospital. She says he hasn't been taking care of himself since Romero's death. He hasn't been able to eat and has mostly been drinking alcohol.
As of Monday morning, Plano police haven't shared any more details, but Tilley is asking that if anyone has information related to this case, to please contact the Plano police tip line at (972) 941-2148.