ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — It’s only a few days into the new school year, but New Mexico’s largest district is reeling from a shooting that left one student dead and landed another in custody.
The gunfire at Washington Middle School during the lunch hour Friday marked the second shooting in Albuquerque in less than 24 hours. With the city on pace to shatter its homicide record this year, top state officials said they were heartbroken by what they described as a scourge.
“These tragedies should never occur. That they do tells us there is more work to be done,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said.
The boy who was killed was a “hero,” Police Chief Harold Medina said Friday night in a brief statement.
“He stood up for a friend and tried to deescalate a violent confrontation between classmates,” Medina said.
He said the incident was “a tragedy that has shaken our community.”
No identities were publicly released but Albuquerque Police Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock earlier described the shooting as an isolated incident between two students who were believed to be about 13 years old. He said a school resource officer ran toward the two boys after gunfire erupted and prevented any other violence while tending to the boy who was shot.
Investigators were trying to determine how the student obtained the gun and what may have prompted the shooting, Hartsock said. Other students were being interviewed as detectives tried to piece together what happened, he said.
Dozens of fretful parents gathered outside the school Friday afternoon as they waited for their children to be released.
Friday marked the third day of classes for Albuquerque’s public school district. While students won’t return until Tuesday, Superintendent Scott Elder said the staff will be making preparations to ensure students have access to counseling and any other support services they need.
“Of course it’s extremely difficult,” he said of something like this happening so early in the school year.
“There’s a lot of pressure in the community. People are nervous. It was a terrible incident that happened between two people. It should have never happened. … This shouldn’t happen in the community. It certainly shouldn’t happen at a school.”
Police said more officers will be present when students return, hoping to provide a sense of security and in case students have any more information about the shooting they want to share.
Gunfire also rang out Thursday night at a sports bar and restaurant near a busy Albuquerque shopping district. Police said one person was killed and three were injured after someone pulled out a gun during a fight.
No arrests have been made in that case. Investigators were reviewing surveillance video and interviewing witnesses.
Authorities identified the man who was killed as Lawrence Anzures, a 30-year old boxer from Albuquerque.
A makeshift memorial of flowers and candles grew Friday outside the restaurant, providing more evidence of the frustration that families having been feeling.
The shootings come as Mayor Tim Keller convened his latest session with other officials to talk about curbing violence and crime in the city. His administration is hoping to come up with recommendations for improving the criminal justice system and addressing the problem of repeat offenders. The mayor’s office noted that for most Albuquerque homicides this year, more than 45% of charged offenders and nearly 60% of suspects have criminal records.
“For low-level offenders, we need to bolster diversion programs and real access to resources to change their lives,” Keller said in a statement. “But for violent offenders, we have to stop the revolving door.”