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J.B. White: ‘Please don’t let me die’

Around 200 people attended a candlelight vigil for Santa Fe High School basketball star Fedonta “J.B.” White held Monday on the basketball court at Franklin Miles Park in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Estevan Montoya was running away from Fedonta “J.B.” White as he fired a bullet at the star Santa Fe High basketball player, mortally wounding him.

“Estevan shot me,” the 18-year-old told a friend moments later. “Please don’t let me die.”

Those are among the new details contained in a statement of probable cause released by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday. In the document, investigators note that multiple witnesses saw Montoya shoot White after a brief fight last Saturday during a large party outside of Santa Fe. Montoya, a 16-year-old Capital High student, fled the scene after the shooting, investigators say.

According to the statement of probable cause, multiple eyewitnesses said numerous teenagers had gathered for a party at 33 Camino Chupadero, located about 12 miles north of Santa Fe.

The host of the party, whose parents own the home, told deputies it was supposed to be a small gathering, but “more and more people began to show up.”

Witnesses, whose identities were redacted by the sheriff’s office, said they saw multiple fights during the party, both inside and outside the home.

Fedonta “J.B.” White

One of those physical fights involved Montoya and White around 3:30 a.m., witnesses state, after Montoya appeared to say something that angered White, although it is unclear what exactly was said.

A fight broke out, the last of many that night, as White attempted to punch Montoya, who started to run away. White followed him.

Multiple witnesses say they then saw Montoya turn around, pull a gun out of his waistband and fire a single shot at White, who fell to the ground.

Witnesses say Montoya then ran away from the scene, with some of his friends following close behind.

Chaos erupted, with some teenagers running to their cars and others screaming, according to the document.

One witness said he attempted to help White soon after the shot was fired.

A group of friends and, later, first responders worked to save White on the 15-mile drive to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, sheriff’s office spokesman Juan Rios said Saturday. Soon after, White died of his wounds.

Friends and family members have held at least two vigils for the slain teenager.

The home where White was shot is located in a remote area near Tesuque. The family was not staying there at the time due to renovation work being done on the home. Miles of long, sparsely-driven roads lead up to the residence, which appears to be a manufactured home.

Some living in the few neighboring homes reported hearing very loud noises coming from the house early Saturday morning.

“It was a funny noise,” said Linda Miller, adding that it sounded like coyotes at first.

It wasn’t until several police cars came up that she began to realize what had happened.

Another neighbor told the Journal she heard many people talking loudly from the home around 3:30 a.m. The noises quickly became more frantic.

“It seemed to escalate from loud talking to screaming and crying,” she said. “It was terrifying.”

The noise became cacophonous. The neighbor said she could only make out certain phrases: “Oh my God,” “What did you do?” and “C’mon, let’s go.”

Sheriff’s deputies soon arrived and started searching the pitch-black hills behind the home with flashlights, she said.

Neighbors say at least 50 people were at the home, many of whom jumped into vehicles and left after White was shot. Cups and bottles could be seen strewn about the home. Those living nearby said they had never seen such a large party in the area.

Sheriff’s office Detective Jeremy Duran, who wrote the probable cause statement, noted that Montoya struck Allan Schmitt with the same gun, but the document doesn’t say who Schmitt is, nor did any witness mention Schmitt by name.

Santa Fe police officers later detained Montoya at his home off Siringo Road at around 7 a.m. Duran wrote that Montoya declined to be interviewed by deputies, choosing instead to invoke his right to an attorney.

Prosecutors announced Monday they are seeking to charge Montoya with an open count of murder, assault with a deadly weapon and other crimes. They have filed a motion to try him as an adult.

Speaking during Montoya’s detention hearing, his attorney, Dan Marlowe, said his client was at the party and did have a gun. He also hinted at Montoya’s defense strategy.

“I also understand there may be an issue of self-defense here,” Marlowe said.

Montoya’s preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 13.

Public officials have expressed concern about the recent spate of homicides involving Santa Fe area teens in the past two months.

City Councilor Roman Abeyta said he is concerned that the lack of activities available during the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to an increase in violence.