Authorities Say New Mexico Gunman Who Killed 3 Was Local High School Student; Still Seek Motive
FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — The gunman who killed three people and wounded six others while roaming through his northwestern New Mexico neighborhood and apparently firing at random targets was a local 18-year-old high school student, authorities said Tuesday, noting they were still trying to determine a motive for the attack.
Beau Wilson lived in the Farmington neighborhood where he opened fire Monday, killing three women, authorities said at a news conference. The three were 97-year-old Gwendolyn Schofield, her 73-year-old daughter, Melody Ivie, and 79-year-old Shirley Voita, police said.
Witnesses and police say Wilson walked through the neighborhood a short drive from downtown Farmington spraying bullets until police arrived at the scene within minutes and shot and killed him.
Deputy Police Chief Baric Crum said Wilson was indiscriminately shooting at vehicles, but that some rounds also hit homes.
Authorities are still trying to determine a motive, but Deputy Police Chief Kyle Dowdy said there is nothing yet leading investigators to believe Wilson knew any of the people he shot.
“We’re pretty conf in that is was completely random,” he said.
Wilson legally purchased at least one of the guns he used in November, Dowdy said.
“The amount of violence and brutality that these people faced is unconscionable to me,” Dowdy said. “I don’t care what age you are, I don’t care what else is going on in your life, to kill three innocent elderly women that were just absolutely in no position to defend themselves is always going to be a tragedy.”
Four officers fired a total of 16 rounds at Wilson, including one of the two officers who were wounded Monday, said San Juan County Sheriff Shane Ferrari.
Mayor Nate Duckett said Tuesday both wounded law enforcement officers — a local Farmington officer and a state police officer — were treated and released from a hospital.
Officers began receiving reports of gunshots at around 10:57 a.m. and the first one arrived at the scene at 11:02 a.m., Police Chief Steve Hebbe said Monday in a video statement. Three minutes later, the gunman had been killed.
Joseph Robledo, a 32-year-old tree trimmer, said he rushed home after learning that his wife, Jolene, and their year-old daughter had sought shelter in the laundry room when gunshots rang out. A bullet went through his daughter’s window and room, without hitting anyone.
Jolene Robledo said she and her daughter had just finished breakfast when she heard “pop, pop, pop, pop,” which she first thought was a car backfiring. She said they were going to run out the back door until she heard a male voice that sounded right outside the home say the f-word, so she quietly shut the door and hid with her daughter between the washing machine and dryer.
“I mean it was crazy. I called my husband and he could hear the gunshots over the phone,” she said. “He was freaking out and I was like ‘don’t hang up, don’t hang up!’”
Joseph Robledo said he jumped a fence to get in through the back door. Out front, he found an older woman in the street who had been wounded while driving by. She appeared to have fallen out of her car, which kept rolling without her, he said.
“I went out to see because the lady was just lying in the road, and to figure just what the heck was going on,” Robledo said. He and others began to administer first aid.
Neighbors directed an arriving police officer toward the suspect.
“We were telling (the officer), ‘He’s down there.’ … The cop just went straight into action,” Robledo said.
Robledo’s own family car was perforated with bullets.
“We’ve been doing yard work all last week. I just thank God that nobody was outside in front,” he said. “Obviously, elderly people — he didn’t have no sympathy for them.”
Downtown Farmington, which is a short drive from the residential neighborhood where the attack happened, has undergone a transformation of sorts in recent years, with cafes and breweries cropping up alongside decades-old businesses that trade in Native American crafts from silver jewelry to wool weavings.
Nick Akins, a middle school teacher who lives in the area where the attack occurred, said it’s a great place to live, with a mix of homes, short-term rental apartments and churches.
“You never think it’s going to happen here, and all of a sudden, in a tiny little town, it comes here,” Akins said.
On Tuesday, orange circles of spray paint still marked the ground where police had collected evidence in the shootings. Authorities were using metal detectors to search the grass in front of one of the churches along the street where gunfire erupted.
As night approached Monday, dozens of people gathered at Hills Church, a few miles (kilometers) from the attack scene, to pray at the base of a tall metal cross. Lead pastor Matt Mizell talked about living in a “dark and broken world” but told the crowd there was still hope and asked God to provide them strength.
Politicians also weighed in about the attack.
Mayor Nate Duckett said in a statement that the shooting “has left us reeling in anguish and disbelief.”
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement that she was praying for the families of those killed and that it “serves at yet another reminder of how gun violence destroys lives in our state and our country every single day.”
Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, a Democrat who represents the area in Congress, said in a Facebook post that “our beautiful Nuevo Mexico is not immune to the mass shootings that occur across the country — Every. Single. Day.”
“I praise the heroes who drove to danger to stop the violence. I pray for the quick recovery of the wounded and for the families of those we lost,” she said.
Ritter reported from Las Vegas, Nevada, and Lee from Santa Fe. Associated Press writer Terry Tang in Phoenix contributed.