Student shot, killed near West Mesa HS - Albuquerque Journal

Student shot, killed near West Mesa HS

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

A 16-year-old West Mesa High School junior was shot and killed just east of campus Friday, about an hour after classes began.

Police say Andrew Burson was shot during a fight with another teenager.

Shortly after 8:30 a.m., Albuquerque Police Department officers were called to the shooting next to the football field near Fortuna and 64th NW.

When they arrived, a sergeant tried to save Burson, but the boy died at the scene.

The suspect fled the area.

In a news conference near the scene – flanked by the mayor, district attorney and school superintendent – police Chief Harold Medina said investigators believe the victim may have left the school and then an “altercation occurred with another individual.”

A police spokesman said detectives are interviewing witnesses and don’t believe anyone else involved in the fight had been at school.

“We do have a suspect identified that we are trying to verify to see if it is indeed the offender,” Medina said. “We have an apprehension team on site waiting to see if they can take this individual into custody once we’re able to verify some information.”

Scott Elder, the Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent, stressed that it was not an “active shooter situation” and the gun was not taken onto the campus.

“While it didn’t occur on an APS campus, it was far too close and it did involve one of our students,” Elder said. “Our thoughts go out to that student’s family and all the families at West Mesa who I know are wildly upset and probably very fearful.”

‘It wasn’t a drill’

About 2,000 students attend West Mesa High School.

When the shooting occurred, they were told to shelter in place and their parents were called to the school. By 10 a.m. hundreds of families had gathered outside to pick up their children.

Jaret Fernandez, a 14-year-old freshman, said he was in physical education class when the school announced everyone had to stay put.

“We didn’t know if it was a drill or anything until we saw there were things posted on social media saying someone got killed,” Fernandez said. “That’s how we knew it wasn’t a drill.”

Others said a photo of the body was being shared on social media.

Fernandez’s mother, Sandra Cabriales, said he called her and then a minute later she got the automated message from the school.

Staff with the Albuquerque Community Safety Department – social workers who respond to behavioral health calls in the place of police or rescue personnel – worked with officers to communicate with families and try to calm them down.

Parents – some in tears – who were waiting anxiously for their children to come out of the school said they felt terrible for the victim’s family.

“I was scared when I didn’t know if my son was OK,” said Jessica Barela, the mother of a 16-year-old. “I feel bad for the parents who have to get that phone call.”

Other incidents

This is the second time this school year a student has been killed on or next to a school campus.

In August, 13-year-old Bennie Hargrove was killed at Washington Middle School. Police charged another 13-year-old – Juan Saucedo Jr. – in his death.

There was also a nonfatal shooting involving a student near Siembra Leadership High School Downtown on Thursday.

In that incident, police were called after a young man was shot multiple times in an alley beside the charter school in Downtown Albuquerque.

Antonio Santillanes Jr., 19, is charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon in the shooting, which left an 18-year-old in critical condition.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court, another young man said he and the victim were fighting and then “a male that he knows from school” – Santillanes – pulled out a revolver and shot the victim.

Before police could track Santillanes down, his father turned him in – telling police, “I did not raise my son to be a bad guy, I’m taking him and turning him in.”

Mayor Tim Keller referenced all three shootings Friday saying the connection between juveniles and weapons is extremely dangerous.

“It’s also something we have to work on in our criminal justice system,” Keller said. “Right now we do not have adequate tools to deal with a juvenile who we know has a firearm – how to get them off the street, keep them safe and keep everyone else safe from them.”

Second Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez said the gun laws should be changed. He said when a juvenile is in possession of a weapon the charge is a misdemeanor – similar to when a juvenile has alcohol – and the case is not formally referred to his office.

“We will obviously be looking very carefully at the situation regarding this homicide, the motivation, the people who are engaged and why this tragedy occurred,” Torrez said. “But we’re also going to be looking very carefully at where that weapon came from, how that weapon was accessed, whether it was accessed at home, whether it was a stolen weapon and whether there was anything that could have been done earlier to intervene and prevent this tragedy.”

Journal staff writer Matthew Reisen and Journal city editor Martin Salazar contributed to this report.



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