Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
With the fatal shooting of a letter carrier during broad daylight in a Southwest Albuquerque neighborhood Monday afternoon, Bernalillo County surpassed 100 shootings for the year, according to statistics kept by the District Attorney’s Office.
Since some incidents had more than one victim, that 101st shooting made 47-year-old Jose Hernandez the 114th person to be shot in the county since Jan 1.
It was 112 days into the year.
The number of shootings has continued to rise in recent years – data provided by the District Attorney’s Office shows there were 36% more this year than over the same time period last year – even as homicides have leveled off and other crimes, including burglary and vehicle theft, have decreased.
The DA’s Office Crime Strategies Unit has been compiling a database of all instances in which a person was shot since the beginning of 2018. It found that throughout all of last year there were 232 shootings where someone was struck, 64 or 65 of which were fatal.
“This is the number one problem facing our city and it has been for some time,” Mayor Tim Keller told the Journal in a phone interview last week. “It’s something that’s going to take all of us coming together to deal with.”
The youngest victim this year as of last Monday was 8-year-old Diamond Williams. She was in a Northeast Albuquerque home with her two siblings when she was shot and seriously injured earlier this month.
The little girl remained in critical condition for several days before she died at the University of New Mexico Hospital. No arrests have been made, although police have said they are not looking for any suspects.
The oldest victim, a 72-year-old man, shot and killed himself.
The news of Hernandez’s death, who police say was shot on his mail route when he intervened in a fight between a mother and her teenage son, reverberated across the city and both Keller and U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., expressed their condolences and emphasized their commitment to fighting gun violence.
The letter carrier was one of at least four people shot in a 24 hour period – three of whom were killed.
Xavier Zamora, 17, has been arrested in Hernandez’s death and now faces federal charges. No one has been arrested in the other shootings.
Dr. Steve McLaughlin, the chairman of the department of emergency medicine at UNMH, said he has been noticing a steady increase in firearm-related injuries and deaths over the past 10 years or so.
He said these days gunshot victims come to the ER almost every day.
The majority of victims are from Bernalillo County, although as the state’s only level one trauma center UNMH treats people from all over the state.
McLaughlin said national data indicates that about a third of gunshot victims die, while the remaining two thirds survive.
The majority of those who survive, he said, are never the same.
“We take care of a whole host of people who are living with firearm-related injuries for the rest of their lives,” he said. “We see them with infections, complications of spinal cord injuries, complication of brain injuries. Not just the acute event but we take care of these patients in the hospital for the rest of their lives.”
As shootings continue to rise, local law enforcement and politicians have been increasingly focused on the issue.
The Albuquerque Police Department provided the Journal with statistics on murders, shootings with injuries, shootings with no injuries, and shootings with property damage. The data did not include suicides, accidental shootings, homicides done in self-defense, or shootings by law enforcement.
APD’s preliminary numbers show a total of 312 shootings with fatalities, with injuries, without injuries, and property damage so far this year, an increase of 11 percent over this time last year when there were 281.
The District Attorney’s Office data collection is the first phase of a program called Ceasefire, a data-driven approach to combating gun violence that has been implemented in several cities across the country, according to Michael Patrick, a DA spokesman.
“The largest percentage of gun violence in Bernalillo County is caused by a small percentage of loosely organized groups. …” he said. “Gun violence is a priority of the DA’s Office and (we) want to reduce it in our community.”
APD and Mayor Keller have also rolled out gun violence initiatives devoting more resources to the issue, collecting and tracking data on shootings, and getting new technology for law enforcement – including a gunshot detection system. APD has also increased its use of the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) to match casings to guns and tie cases together.
“Some of it is several months and some even years down the road,” Keller said, referring to effects they hope to see from the initiatives. “They’re just not going to happen overnight so we’re trying to push them as fast as we can and encourage our partners to do the same.”