When gunfire rang through an otherwise peaceful neighborhood in Northeast Albuquerque this weekend, another 17-year-old lost his life.
Sean Markey, a senior at Sandia High School, was shot while at a high school homecoming party early Sunday. In September alone, five teenagers were shot and killed in four incidents across the city.
Friends and relatives of Markey took to Facebook to discuss the tragedy and grieve.
Markey’s mother, Tricia Thompson-Ruger, made several posts describing her confusion and heartbreak.
“I don’t even know what’s going on,” she said. “I want this to be a nightmare. I want to wake up.”
In another post Monday, Thompson-Ruger called Markey “a great son” who was just starting to find out who he was in the world.
“This is not fair. I love you always,” she wrote.
An early morning news release from the Albuquerque Police Department sent just before 4:15 a.m. Sunday said officers responded to several calls of shots being fired in the 3900 block of Garcia, near Montgomery and Eubank.
“When officers arrived on scene, they did not locate any victims but did observe signs that a shooting had occurred,” APD spokesman Tanner Tixier said. “A short time later, a shooting victim was located at Kaseman Hospital. That victim died at the hospital.”
Sandia High School sent an email to parents Monday morning, alerting them to the death of one of its students.
“One of our 12th grade students passed away this weekend,” principal Larry D’Anza wrote.
He said the school planned to provide help, support and counseling for students and staffers Monday and Tuesday as the community dealt with the tragedy. The email encouraged parents to talk to their kids about “these sorts of tragedies, because they impact each person in different ways.”
“Our thoughts are with the families involved,” D’Anza wrote.
The uptick in what APD is deeming party-related or alcohol-related shooting deaths has prompted the department to start a new initiative.
“Over the last several weeks, we have noticed an uptick in the number of house parties throughout the city that have resulted in dangerous and deadly gunfire,” APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos told reporters Monday afternoon.
He said he that he did not know what happened at the party where Markey was killed but that it is “just too easy” for kids to get guns and for parties to get out of hand.
“We see both the offenders and victims in a lot of these cases are teenagers involved in this deadly violence,” Gallegos said. “It is hard to stomach. … These are our kids; they shouldn’t be in that position, either side, they shouldn’t have a gun, and they shouldn’t be in that kind of confrontation.”
Gallegos said the initiative is still in the development stage, but would look something like a “party patrol” of years past, this time cracking down on adults.
“One of the things we’re immediately moving toward is holding the owners of these homes accountable for providing alcohol to minors,” Gallegos said.
He said authorities would be exploring whether adults could be prosecuted if they know there are guns at a party.
“We want parents to be responsible and to look out for their kids,” Gallegos said.
A vigil is planned for Markey at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, at North Domingo Baca Skate Park.
Markey is being remembered as a sweet and respectful kid who liked to skateboard and snowboard.
A friend of the family created a GoFundMe account to help with funeral costs. Within seven hours, almost $2,000 had been donated.
People had been posting about the party throughout the night on a neighborhood watch app, first about the number of cars lining the streets and then about multiple gunshots that rang through the neighborhood.
“Looks like a big party going on in one of the houses up the street from us,” one man wrote.
Many posters joked about their dogs barking at the teens walking up and down the street, but the tone changed when someone posted about hearing gunshots.
“Shots fired … kids running and screaming. I just called APD,” one woman wrote.