Little Rock shooting victim, a MEMS dispatcher, dies from injuries Wednesday

Spouse had been accused of abuse

A Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services (MEMS) ambulance is shown at Burns Park in North Little Rock in this Jan. 20, 2023 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Colin Murphey)

A man accused Saturday of shooting his estranged wife, a MEMS dispatcher who died of her wounds Wednesday, was released from jail on bond about a week before the shooting following his arrest on charges of rape and assault against her, court documents show.

Cassandra Peña-Romero, 27, died Wednesday, a news release from Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services states. Omar Peña-Romero, 23, the suspect in the killing, was also an employee at the Little Rock-based ambulance service until earlier this month, when he was fired, it states.

The Saturday shooting came after Maumelle police arrested Omar on Aug. 7 at Cassandra's Maumelle apartment, an arrest report shows.

Officers responding to a report of an altercation around 12:54 a.m. first spoke with Omar, who said that he and Cassandra had been fighting after an incident around 11:30 p.m. in which she called 911 because he was threatening to kill himself, according to the report. The two had then had "make-up sex," police said Omar told them at the door.

Inside the apartment, officers encountered Cassandra, who they said was naked and crying on the couch and said that Omar had just raped her, choked her and tried to take her phone when she attempted to call 911. She said that Omar only stopped when the patrol officer knocked on the apartment door, the report says.

Omar, who Cassandra said was an EMT at MEMS, was committed to the hospital for a week because he was struggling with depression and was released on Aug. 6, Cassandra told police.

Both Cassandra and Omar told officers that his depression largely stemmed from Cassandra's relationship with another coworker, whom she told police she was having an affair with.

Cassandra said that Omar, who told police that he lied to hospital staff about his suicidal thoughts to get released early, said he didn't want to live if he couldn't be with her.

Omar was furious that Cassandra had called 911 about his suicidal statements, she told police, because now his coworkers and supervisor at MEMS would know about the incident. According to the report, Cassandra told police her husband took her phone after first responders left so that she couldn't call police again, then raped her.

Police booked Omar on felony charges of rape and aggravated assault on a family or household member and a misdemeanor count of interfering with emergency communications.

On Aug. 8, Omar's bond was set at $75,000, and he was released on bond posted by City Bail Bonds on Aug. 11, court documents show. A no-contact order was issued against him the same day.

MEMS spokesman Aaron Gilkey wasn't sure exactly when Omar was fired or what the reason was, he said Wednesday evening, but he said it was around the time of Omar's arrest by Maumelle police.

Also on Aug. 11, Cassandra filed for divorce from Omar, stating that he was in jail on rape and assault charges, that he had threatened to harm her several times and that he showed her a suicide note he wrote on Aug. 7 after getting out of the hospital.

She asked for sole custody of their 1-year-old child, stating that while Omar was in the hospital he exhibited symptoms of suicidal and homicidal ideation.

A temporary restraining order was entered against Omar on Aug. 7, before the alleged rape and assault, the divorce complaint states.

Omar, a resident of Mexico and a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program is a flight risk, the complaint states. It describes how earlier this month he threatened to take the child, steal an ambulance and flee.

On Saturday, around 5:30 p.m., Little Rock officers located Cassandra shot in the neck outside the MEMS headquarters at 1121 W. Seventh St., an incident report states. She was leaving work when a supervisor got "an SOS text" from her and told MEMS personnel to go check on her. They eventually found her lying by her vehicle.

Omar rented a car, drove to the MEMS building and shot Cassandra with a handgun, a request for the revocation of Omar's bond in the Maumelle case states. He then fled, but Arkansas State Police troopers arrested him outside Texarkana, partially relying on the rental car's On-Star GPS tracking to find him, the document states. A handgun was in plain view in the vehicle at the time of arrest, the document says.

At the time of his arrest on Saturday, Omar faced felony charges of first-degree domestic battery and unauthorized use of another's property to commit a crime, as well as a misdemeanor count of violating a no-contact order, the document states.

On Wednesday morning, Little Rock police spokesman Mark Edwards said that Omar's charges were being upgraded after Cassandra died of her wounds.

Omar was being held in the Pulaski County jail Wednesday night in lieu of a $1 million bond, the jail's inmate roster showed. He was also being held for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.