New information revealed regarding Weller's death - Albuquerque Journal

New information revealed regarding Weller’s death

Jackson Weller
Jackson Weller

Ray Birmingham’s voice was still a bit shaky Monday as he responded to questions about Jackson Weller.

Monday was exactly one month since Weller, a University of New Mexico baseball player, was fatally shot in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill area. Birmingham, UNM’s veteran baseball coach, and athletic director Eddie Nuñez took the opportunity to address media members in Birmingham’s office, providing further details on the May 4 incident and discussing the athletic department’s response.

Police reports said Weller, 23, was shot outside a local nightclub, but Birmingham and Nuñez said their interviews indicate Weller was waiting in line at a late-night food stand when the incident began. Birmingham said a fight broke out when several people cut in front of Weller and one of them pushed his date to the ground.

“It was their first date,” Birmingham said, “and Jackson was in line to buy her some food before they went home. That’s when it happened.”

Weller stepped in to protect the woman, Birmingham and Nuñez said, and a fight ensued. Weller was shot nearby minutes later by an individual who was reportedly not involved in the fight.

Police arrested a suspect in the shooting, Darian Bashir, on May 11. Bashir was charged with an open count of murder and remains in custody.

Nuñez said his department has received several accounts of the incident, including from Weller’s date, whom he declined to identify.

“She’s not a student-athlete, but we’re basically taking her in as one of ours,” Nuñez said. “It’s tough for her right now as it is for the other student-athletes that were with her at the time and everyone else who saw the incident firsthand.”

Birmingham and Nuñez said Weller took on a protective role.

“From everything I’ve heard about Jackson, it’s not surprising that he would step up and try to do what’s right,” Nuñez said.

Birmingham spent Memorial Day weekend with Weller’s family in Texas. They gave him one of Jackson’s prized autographed baseballs, which Birmingham has since placed on a bookshelf in his office.

Both Birmingham and Nuñez discussed the wider issue of crime in Albuquerque and its impact of UNM athletics.

“We’re all concerned about it,” Nuñez said, “and we want to do what we can to work with the city and the community to make things safer. It’s a challenge right now for the university, getting and retaining professors and coaches as well as student-athletes. We need to be able to tell parents we’ll protect their boys and girls when they come here.”

Birmingham said he hopes Weller’s death will spur state and city leaders to emphasize a crackdown on crime.

“This has been on the radar for a while now,” Birmingham said, “but I feel like (Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham), (Mayor Tim Keller) and the city are rallying around this and I’m glad to see it. We need to clean things up right now. The people of New Mexico deserve it.”

Birmingham said he and other UNM coaches typically impose curfews and do bed checks with student-athletes during road trips but not when teams are at home.

“We always tell them nothing good happens after midnight,” he said, “but you can’t really tell young adults not to go out at night.”

Nuñez said his department will address safety concerns with student-athletes prior to the upcoming school year.

“We have to remind them to be careful and to emphasize that some things are beyond their control,” Nuñez said. “Don’t put yourself in a bad position. That’s just reality right now.”

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