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Parents fearful, angry as more teens die

A group of youths gathers around candles to mourn the deaths of four people, two of them teens, shot and killed Sept. 12 at a mobile home park on Lura SW, near Bridge and Goff. (Celia Raney/Albuquerque Journal)

It just keeps happening.

“Another robocall from my son’s school this week,” Maggie Byers sighed. “A child was shot and killed over the weekend; several other children ran for their lives.”

She was talking about Sean Markey, 17, shot to death early Sunday at a high school homecoming party in the Northeast Heights for reasons that remain unclear. Neighbors in that usually quiet and comfortable block on Garcia near Montgomery and Eubank say they heard shots then saw swarms of teens running through the streets, their cars screeching off in the dark.

One of those cars carried a bleeding Markey and his frantic friends to Presbyterian Kaseman Hospital, but he could not be saved.

He was the fifth teen shot and killed last month in Albuquerque.

“This was a good kid, not looking for trouble, doing what most kids do at his age,” Byers said of Markey, a student at Sandia High School like her son, who is also 17.

Trouble found Markey anyway. And so, another robocall, another mother burying her child while another mother worries that another tragedy is coming and it could be hers.

Byers is that worried mother, that fed-up mother, that angry mother.

So she wrote her thoughts in an impassioned post on Facebook about this war in which there seems no cease-fire, no solution.

“The reality that our kids deal with every day is nothing short of traumatic,” she wrote. “I think about what I was doing at the age of 17; and I sure as hell wasn’t attending multiple funerals in one month for my teenage friends.

“Imagine going to school every day, trying to concentrate, trying to study. But every time you hear a book drop in the hallway your heart stops and your mind races.”

She sees how the violence in the community has changed her son and her 10-year-old daughter.

“I ask my kids every day how they are doing. The answer is always the same: ‘We’re FINE, Mom,’ ” she wrote. “I could take that at face value, but I’m a mother and I know better. Trust me when I say our kids are not OK when their peers are shot and killed. It wears on them, it takes a toll on them. It affects everything from their emotional well-being to their potential in life.

“My sweet teenage boy, once gregarious and outgoing, has become increasingly afraid of big crowds. I couldn’t get him to go to a party if I tried – and I’ve tried.”

Despite the growing cries from citizens demanding that something be done about the bloodshed, the bullets keep flying, people keep dying.

No one knows how to stop this.

Markey’s death has prompted new efforts to stem the bleeding, though whether that’s because his death was one too many or one that occurred in a “nicer” neighborhood is arguable. The City Council is considering bringing back a version of the “party patrol,” a program from nearly 20 years ago in which Albuquerque police officers broke up house parties, passed out citations to underage partygoers and called Mom and Dad to pick up their children.

But Mayor Tim Keller appears disinclined to revive the patrol, which had mixed results and teetered on civil rights violations.

Keller prefers a more holistic approach involving law enforcement, social services and the community to interrupt the cycle of violence with more youth programs and more services that give back a sense of trust, hope and support.

But we adults have not done a very good job of figuring out how to reach those youths who live in a nihilistic combat zone, disaffected and disconnected, surrounded by drugs and guns and the aftermath of each. They have seen too much.

Noah Tafoya, 17, had a Facebook page that was a veritable tribute to firearms. Nearly every photo posted appearing to be of him brandishing a weapon like a cool toy. Other photos are of young friends who are dead. In his intro, he wrote: “ima make it to the top by myself for myself. ion need nobody but my strap” – that last word is slang for “gun.”

Tafoya was the second teen to be shot and killed last month, his death the result of a Sept. 12 shootout at the Rio Volcan Apartments, near Ladera and Unser NW, in which three others suffered gunshot wounds. In a police report, an officer remarked that Tafoya had previously been referred for social services and that he had easy access to guns.

Byers wishes it weren’t so.

“I want to scoop all of these kids up in my arms, hug them and tell them that this will stop today,” she writes. “But I know that they know better.”

Until we adults know better, the war continues.

UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to to submit a letter to the editor.


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