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Teen killed on West Side had ‘easy access’ to guns

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Noah Tafoya’s Facebook page is littered with images of guns, cash and a few tributes to friends – young men who died too soon.

Friends of the 17-year-old have now flooded social media with similar tributes to Tafoya after he was slain in a West Side shooting Sept. 12 that left three others critically injured. Police have not identified any of the others shot.

Gilbert Gallegos, an Albuquerque police spokesman, said no arrests have been made in the shooting, but detectives are “making progress” in finding whoever is responsible.

Around 8:45 p.m., the 911 calls began pouring in about gunfire and fleeing vehicles at the Rio Volcan Apartments, near Ladera and Unser. Arriving officers found Tafoya shot at the complex, and he was taken to a hospital, where he died. The other three shooting victims drove themselves to get help, one showing up at a nearby Walmart and two at a hospital. Despite that, detectives believe all four males were involved in the shooting at the apartment complex.

Tafoya’s relatives declined to be interviewed for this story.

But court records and police reports depict a boy with a tragic childhood who later had access to firearms – once shooting himself in the hand – and ended up “hanging out with the wrong people” in the years before his death.

The reports date back to 2011, when a 10-year-old Tafoya was with his mother, April Tafoya, and her friend when they were caught stealing hot dogs, deodorant, lunch meat and other groceries from a Smith’s supermarket.

As officers detained April Tafoya to take her to jail, she asked that her friend be given her car keys so she could get Noah home safely.

In 2013, Noah Tafoya, then 11, was caught stealing a “small package of snack food” from a Circle K and found with a marijuana pipe in his pocket.

Noah Tafoya told police that it was not his first time shoplifting and that he did it because “he did not have any money” and “did not want to ask for money.”

The officer spoke with Noah Tafoya about the difference “between right and wrong” before the boy told him he “did OK” in school – not getting into trouble or failing classes.

When a concerned April Tafoya went to pick him up, she told police he had been hanging out with “the wrong people” and she would “keep a closer eye” on him.

The next report doesn’t come up until August 2018, when a 16-year-old Noah Tafoya checked into Lovelace Downtown Hospital with a gunshot wound to his hand. The teenager initially told police he was in a vehicle near Longfellow Elementary School when he was shot in the finger by someone outside the vehicle.

An officer noticed gunpowder around the bullet hole in Noah Tafoya’s finger and told the teen the story didn’t match up to the wound, because the gun would have had to be fired at close range.

“He then admitted he shot himself accidentally,” an officer wrote.

Noah Tafoya then told police he had been “checking out” a friend’s gun, believing it was “safe” because the clip wasn’t in it, and pulled the trigger – shooting himself in the hand.

Noah Tafoya would not identify the friends he was with or give officers any more information. Police found his Facebook page and several photos of him posing with guns and pointing them at the camera.

Asked where he got the guns, Noah Tafoya told police that he would take pictures when one of his friends “has one around” and that he doesn’t own any. When April Tafoya showed up at the hospital, she told police she did not know which friends Noah had been with that day.

“April (Tafoya) said she tries not to pry into Noah’s personal life because she fears he will shut her out completely,” an officer wrote.

The mother told police that the two had a good relationship and that Noah Tafoya “opens up to her” about his personal life.

When shown the photos on her son’s Facebook page, April Tafoya said she was shocked that he had access to firearms, that they have no guns in their home and she doesn’t condone violence.

A report was made to the state Children, Youth and Families Department in reference to Noah Tafoya having “easy access” to guns and “his being injured as a result.”

“This concludes my involvement,” an officer wrote.

Journal staff writer Katy Barnitz contributed to this report.



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