LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Lifesavers in Little Rock are mourning the loss of one of their own. An Emergency Dispatcher for MEMS died Wednesday morning from her injuries in a Saturday shooting.
New information shows the arrested shooter was her husband who she was trying to divorce. He had also been a MEMS employee before he was let go just weeks before the killing.
Cassandra Peña-Romero, 27, and 23-year-old Omar Peña-Romero had been married for almost four years and had one child in February of 2022. On Aug. 7, 2023, Cassandra asked for and received a no-contact order from Omar. She also filed for divorce eight days before she was shot.
Divorce documents also claim Omar had voluntarily admitted himself to the Baptist Health Psychiatric Ward for close to a week at the start of August with alleged suicidal and homicidal thoughts. Police records and the divorce document state Omar had been arrested for a violent crime against his wife and was jailed for it around the same time. Omar was let go from his job with MEMS following the incident.
The no-contact order, which is a criminal version of a civil protection order, demanded Omar Peña-Romero stay at least 500 yards away from his wife’s home and workplace. He was also not supposed to contact her in any way or carry any weapons.
However, on Saturday, Aug. 19, as Cassandra was leaving work she sent an SOS text to MEMS. A supervisor sent workers into the parking lot, and they found Cassandra shot in the neck next to her car. They then took her to the UAMS emergency department.
Coworkers informed Little Rock police of Cassandra’s relationship with Omar, and detectives put out an alert for the suspect’s car. Three hours after the shooting, Arkansas State Police pulled over the suspect’s vehicle on I-30 near Texarkana. Cassandra’s estranged husband was inside. State troopers and Texarkana police arrested him.
MEMS has mental health professionals on-site and denied an interview on Wednesday. They did send a statement from MEMS Executive Director Greg Thompson.
Dispatchers are the first step of the life-saving work of emergency services, and Cassandra was a true community hero. We appreciate the care she received at UAMS and the valiant efforts of our law enforcement partners to quickly apprehend the suspect of this heinous act. We mourn the loss of Cassandra and our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends, and colleagues. As an organ donor, Cassandra continues her life-saving legacy.”MEMS Executive Director Greg Thompson
Omar Peña Romero is being held in the Pulaski County Detention Center for capital murder, violating a no-contact order and unauthorized use of another person’s property to facilitate a crime. According to Little Rock District Court, he will appear before a judge on Thursday morning.
This marks the 39th homicide of 2023 in Little Rock. At the same point in 2022, there had been 52 homicide cases.