Ambulance dispatcher dies after being shot in parking lot over weekend; estranged husband charged

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A dispatcher died Wednesday after being shot at a Little Rock-area ambulance service’s parking lot over the weekend, and her estranged husband was charged in her death.

Cassandra Pena-Romero, 27, who was shot at the Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services parking lot in downtown Little Rock on Saturday, died on Wednesday from her injuries, the agency announced.

Omar Pena-Romero, who was arrested by police near Texarkana, Arkansas, Saturday night, was being held in the Pulaski County jail without bond and was charged Wednesday with capital murder. Pena-Romero, 23, had been charged over the weekend with first degree domestic battery, violation of a no-contact order and unauthorized use of another person’s property to facilitate a felony.

“Dispatchers are the first step of the life-saving work of emergency services, and Casandra was a true community hero,” said Greg Thompson, executive director of Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services. “We appreciate the care she received at UAMS (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences) and the valiant efforts of our law enforcement partners to quickly apprehend the suspect of this heinous act.”

A Little Rock police spokesman said upgraded charges were expected to be filed against Omar Pena-Romero in the fatal shooting. It was not clear if Omar Pena-Romero had an attorney representing him. An arraignment was set Thursday for Pena-Romero.

Cassandra Pena-Romero filed for divorce from her husband on Aug. 11 after he was arrested and charged with raping and assaulting her, according to court records. A judge had ordered Pena-Romero to stay away from his wife’s home and from Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services on Aug. 7.

The two had been married since October 2019.

Cassandra Pena-Romero had worked since 2021 for Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services, which serves Little Rock and several surrounding areas. Omar Pena-Romero had worked for the agency until he was terminated earlier this month, a spokesperson for the service said.

According to the divorce filing, Pena-Romero had voluntarily committed himself to a hospital psychiatric unit on Aug. 1 until Aug. 6. He had shown his wife a suicide note on Aug. 7 he had written, and he had threatened to physically harm her on several occasions, the filing said.

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This story has been corrected to say that a judge’s no-contact order against Omar Pena-Romero was filed on Aug. 7, not a week before the shooting.

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