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71 homicides this year are the most in recent history

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Four deaths this week have brought the city’s number of murder investigations to 71 this year. With a month to go, it’s the highest number in a single year in recent history.

Hannah Glasgow, a spokeswoman for the Albuquerque Police Department, said Thursday that a 17-year-old boy and his friend were shot at in the area of Wyoming and Central on Sunday. The 17-year-old, Donaldo Yañez-Reyes, was hit and died two days later.

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Glasgow had not provided information about the incident until Thursday afternoon.

Also, on Monday, police say, a 20-year-old man fatally stabbed his brother, Dezmond Ravenel, 22, in a southeast Albuquerque apartment. D’Andre Ravenel was arrested and charged with murder.

Hours later, early Tuesday morning, 45-year-old Thomas Ramirez was found shot and killed across town near 5th and Headingly NW.

And around 8 a.m. Wednesday, officers found a man dead from gunshot wounds in a Northeast Albuquerque park. Police have not released his name.

The record total of 71 murders in a single year comes in the last week of former Mayor Richard Berry’s administration, in which he has faced heavy criticism for rising crime. In recent years, crime has spiked across the board and the city now leads the nation in rates of property crime and is second in violent crime.

The previous record year for murders was 70 in 1996. Because the city had almost 140,000 fewer residents then, the rate was higher than in this year so far. In 1996, 16.6 people per 100,000 residents were killed. So far in 2017, the homicide rate has been about 12.5 people per 100,000 residents.

The number of homicides each year in Albuquerque has been steadily increasing since 2014, when 30 were committed. In 2015 there were 46, and in 2016 there were 61. These numbers do not include homicides that were determined to be justifiable.

Detectives have solved 39 of the 2017 murders, putting them at about a 55 percent clearance rate for this year. There were only five full-time detectives with the homicide unit as of last month, although it was reported that two more were in training.

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A ‘perfect kid’

As the city surpassed the 1996 record year, Yañez-Reyes’s friends and family are left reeling from his death. They say he was an active member of his church and the community and was passionate about gardening and activism.

George Lujan, an organizer with the SouthWest Organizing Project, said members of the group first met Yañez-Reyes when he was 10 or 11 and eagerly joined their community gardening effort.

“He really was from that neighborhood,” Lujan said. “I think the first time he showed up was in the garden and he jumped right into working in the garden. We ended up building a relationship with him and his mom.”

Lujan said Yañez-Reyes joined SWOP and its Feed the Hood community garden project as an intern and helped the group expand the idea into schools throughout the city.

“He was the model, perfect kid, from a really tough neighborhood,” he said. “He was a poster boy of the program, so nice and sweet to everybody.”

SWOP organized a vigil Thursday night for family and friends. The group also painted a mural of the teen’s face on its Downtown office.

Yañez-Reyes’ brother, 23-year-old David Yañez-Reyes, said Donaldo was the youngest of four siblings and had attended West Mesa High School before dropping out to get a job and get his GED.

 

He said the family is active in New Heights Baptist Church on Coors NW and his brother was not involved in gangs, drugs or crime.

David said Donaldo was in his car when he was shot three times, twice in the leg and once in the head. He was declared brain dead on Tuesday.

“We’re hurting,” David said. “It’s hard to believe that it actually happened. You hear about it, read about it, but you don’t think it’s going to happen to me.”


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