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Late Lobo player’s mother files notice of claim against UNM

Nahje Flowers (Courtesy UNM Athletics)

The law firm Hilaire McGriff PC representing Vickie Gilmore, the mother of the late University of New Mexico football player Nahje Flowers, has filed a notice of claim to UNM, attorney Mika M. Hilaire told the Journal.

A notice of claim is to make UNM aware that a lawsuit may be filed and the university has an opportunity to respond before such action. The Journal is attempting to contact the law firm to learn the details of its complaint.

Flowers, 21, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on the morning of Nov. 5.

“Workup for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was performed,” on Flowers’ brain and he did not have CTE, according to an autopsy report filed by medical investigator Dr. Lauren E. Dvorscak of UNM School of Medicine on Jan. 6.

“While tau deposition was present focally, its presence in this case does not meet the diagnostic criteria for CTE,” the report reads.

Flowers, a 6-foot-3, 278-pound redshirt junior nose tackle, was found dead in his off-campus residence.

Depression was listed as a past and recent health complaint for Flowers’ medical history, according to the police report investigating his death. Flowers said in a group text message early in the morning of Nov. 5 that the antidepressants he was taking were not helping him, the police report says.

Flowers had been due in court later in the day of Nov. 5 on a petty misdemeanor charge that involved an accusation of “keying” a car of an “ex-friend,” according to a criminal complaint.

A few days after Flowers’ death, then-UNM football coach Bob Davie was asked if the mental health services available for UNM student-athletes had been adequate.

“Everybody did their best,” Davie said, declining to comment further.

Earlier this month, UNM offensive lineman Teton Saltes, quarterback Tevaka Tuioti athletic director Eddie Nuñez and New Mexico State A.D. Mario Moccia lobbied for a bill for funds that would be appropriated for behavioral health services at UNM and NMSU.

Saltes and Tuioti spoke to the state Senate Education Committee.

Saltes cited Flowers’ death as proof of UNM’s need for more counseling and behavioral health screening.

“The circumstances that led to his suicide are not unique to only him,” Saltes said.

Saltes, a Valley High graduate and enrolled member of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, said current Lobo teammates are dealing with mental health issues.

“If we don’t give them adequate support you’re going to continue to hear stories like this every year,” Saltes said.

The committee voted 7-0 to endorse a bill that appropriates $500,000 to both UNM and NMSU for behavioral health services.

A proposed $357,000 appropriation for nutrition and behavioral health services for UNM student-athletes was vetoed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham during last year’s legislative session.

The veto was due to the behavioral health services being targeted to one specific group, a Governor’s office spokesman later said.

“Responding to the personal challenges of student-athletes on and off the fields and arenas of play require us all to become more aware, more prepared and more supportive,” Nuñez said in a statement in November. “We must find the ways and means to do so.”

UNM athletics secured increased support from UNM Health Sciences Center with regard to behavioral services shortly after Nuñez became athletic director two years ago, he said.


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