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City reeling after 11 shot in burst of violence

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

And just like that, Albuquerque is on pace for a record year in homicides.

In 2017, there were 52 homicides as of Sept. 12 and a record of 75 for the entire year. Last year, there were 51 by Sept. 12.

And now, 2019 has racked up a total of 57 after three shooting incidents killed five people and wounded six others – three critically – across the city Thursday night.

The Albuquerque Police Department initially said six people were dead, but Friday morning, it clarified that one of the victims who was believed to have been killed was in critical condition.

Gilbert Gallegos, an APD spokesman, said the shootings – which occurred over roughly 90 minutes – “do not appear to be related.” APD called in additional resources due to the complexity of the scenes.

APD had no information about suspects and did not identify any of those injured or killed.

But three of the victims’ friends in the third and deadliest shooting said the four killed at a mobile home park were from the same family, and included male and female teenagers, as well as a mother and grandmother.

Deputy Chief Harold Medina called the shootings “senseless acts” and urged anyone with information on the incidents, or information they believe could help police find the individuals responsible, to call 242-COPS.

About 200 people gathered for a vigil in the mobile home park Friday night.

Just after the sun set around 7:30 p.m. family and friends of those shooting victims poured onto the street. As they approached a white mobile home with green trim, many started sobbing. Neon orange tape still dotted the walls and windows of the home and a small sedan parked outside, marking bullet holes.

Mayor Tim Keller called the shootings appalling.

“There is much more work to do to tackle crime in our city,” he said in a statement Friday. “We are fed up with the gun violence, gang and addiction issues gripping parts of our city, and I am determined to keep fighting against violence in our city …”

The first shooting occurred just before 7:30 p.m. at the Casa Bonita apartment complex at Carlisle and Montgomery. Police say a man was shot in the neck while trying to stop a robbery. He survived.

About 8:45 p.m., four men were shot at an apartment complex on the West Side. They were taken to a hospital, where one died and three were in critical condition.

Shortly after 9 p.m., the third shooting took place at the mobile home park near Bridge and Goff in Southwest Albuquerque. Four people were killed and two wounded in that shooting.

As detectives continued to investigate the shootings on Friday morning, local leaders decried the violence.

Bernalillo County Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada asked residents to “stay calm” and “remain vigilant” in the aftermath of the shootings, and Albuquerque City Council President Klarissa Peña released a statement saying she was heartbroken by the news.

Lura Place shooting

Officers responded to a shooting outside a residence at a mobile home park in the 1000 block of Lura SW, near Bridge, around 9 p.m. and found a man shot to death in the road.

“As officers cleared the scene, they located multiple other shooting victims,” Gallegos said.

In all, six people were shot – three died at the scene, another died at the hospital, and two were injured but are expected to survive.

Gallegos said witnesses told police a vehicle drove down Lura Place before an occupant opened fire on the man in the driveway. It’s unclear how many shooters there were, if those inside the trailer were killed by stray bullets, or if they were purposely targeted.

The scene outside the mobile home park was tense Thursday night.

Dozens of people gathered outside the cordoned-off area, some crying and hugging, others talking furiously in hushed voices.

Near the east entrance, the headlights of the mobile crime lab illuminated a body lying in the middle of the street beneath a sheet.

During Friday night’s vigil, a young man called out for his lost friend, while some prayed and others choked back sobs. One woman stood holding a rosary in front of the home’s porch, which was covered in tall candles.

Jesus Ornelas lives in a mobile home just down the street. He said he had known a 17-year-old boy who was killed for about 10 years.

Ornelas said he was at home when the shooting happened and rushed to the scene right after the last gunshot was fired.

“His eyes were still open, everybody’s eyes were still open,” he said. “I thought they were all still alive.”

Ornelas said the grandmother, mother, and a 15-year-old girl were also shot and killed and lying in a line as if they had tried to run away.

Candles melted into the pavement in the shape of a heart where Ornelas said the boy died. A group of young adults sat around the candles, pouring out cans of Modelo beer, which some said was the boy’s favorite.

Another neighbor told the Journal her son called her to tell her there was a fight next door before gunfire erupted in the street and two vehicles sped off.

The woman said the victims, her neighbors, were members of the same family – and one was a girlfriend. APD had not confirmed those details.

“We all grew up together,” she said through tears. “We’re all family friends.”

The woman said they had been neighbors for two decades and were very close, describing them as friendly, generous and outgoing. Their children would often hang out together.

“My oldest son is a mess,” she said. “They weren’t bad people. … They didn’t need this, they didn’t deserve it.”

One young man from the neighborhood told the Journal the 17-year-old who was gunned down outside was one of his best friends, and he had known the family since he was in kindergarten.

He said the teen’s name was Alex, but everyone called him “Smurf” because of his height.

“I wish my brother was still here,” he said about his best friend. “I didn’t know he was deceased … until I seen his body on the floor.”

He said he got a call around 9:30 p.m. and went to the mobile home park. Soon after, he found out Alex’s mother, a teenage cousin and his grandmother had also been killed. Alex’s girlfriend was shot in the leg.

Ladera shooting

Five miles away and 15 minutes before that shooting, at around 8:45 p.m., officers responded to gunfire at the Rio Volcan Apartments near Ladera and Unser, Gallegos said, where they found a man who had been shot and transported him to a hospital where he died.

Another man who had been shot at the complex showed up at a nearby Walmart, at Coors and Ouray, and was also taken to a hospital.

Two other men showed up at Presbyterian Hospital near Downtown Albuquerque with gunshot wounds, and said they had been shot at a gas station at Unser and Central.

Despite their conflicting stories, Gallegos said police believe all four men were involved in the shooting at the apartment complex.

The three who were wounded are in critical condition.

Neighbors at the complex told the Journal they heard at least four gunshots, which they thought were fireworks, before police swarmed the apartment complex parking lot.

Officers had taped off most of the parking lot and were walking through the scene with flashlights. Three officers could be seen walking around a cardboard box and a rock, which they were using as makeshift evidence markers.

In the Walmart parking lot, a white sedan, its doors agape, was surrounded by police vehicles and crime scene tape. What appeared to be bullet holes dotted the left passenger and rear windows.

By Friday afternoon, the Rio Volcan apartments were quiet. Police tape was absent, the evidence markers were gone and the parking lot was mostly empty.

A nearby neighbor, Gertrude Romero, said she slept through the shooting and police activity Thursday night, but woke up to a bouquet of flowers near the mailboxes.

Romero has lived at the complex for almost 16 years, but said that after Thursday night, she’s moving.

“I was sitting right there,” Romero said, pointing at a couch in front of a big window on Friday morning, “talking to my daughter, and I said ‘Oh, my God, those shots are like right here.’ ”

One of several bullet holes scattered across the outer wall of the apartments landed right outside her door, and when police came to check on her, they pointed out the hole and had to tear through the wall to get the bullet out.

“I guess that wall is pretty thick, because it didn’t come through,” Romero said.

Her daughter told her to stay away from the windows until police cleaned up the scene around 3 a.m.

“My family said, ‘No, Mom, that’s enough; you’re not safe,’ ” she said.

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