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A man was shot and killed early Tuesday morning at a city park north of Downtown — a place that has stirred years of complaints about the large homeless encampment in the area.
It was the fourth homicide at or within a block of Coronado Park, at Third and Interstate 40, since 2019. It is unclear if the man who was killed, 33-year-old Andrew Aguilar, lived at the encampment.
The park has been central to the debate over how the city addresses homelessness.
People who live and work nearby have complained for years about the city’s relatively hands-off approach to the those who camp there overnight.
In an unrelated news conference, Mayor Tim Keller addressed those concerns, saying federal courts “will not allow us to just walk in and arrest someone because they’re homeless” and the current situation beats the alternative.
“It is not lost on me that we created Coronado Park because Wells Park said, ‘We don’t want these folks in our neighborhood,’ and we agree with them. And that’s why they were all grouped to one area,” he said. “So you also got to remember the alternative. You can’t have it both ways — you want to close Coronado Park, you are going to open all of Wells Park neighborhood to something none of us want to see.”
The latest incident at the park happened in the early morning hours.
Albuquerque Police Department Lt. Ray Del Greco said around 2:30 a.m. a man who lived at the park walked up to a nearby fire station to report a man had been shot. He said firefighters responded to the park and found a man shot to death.
He said police are investigating and did not give any other details.
“We don’t have a lot to go on,” Del Greco said Tuesday afternoon.
Keller was questioned about the park Tuesday afternoon during a news conference on reclaimed water outside the Sunport.
He said the city has plans for addressing homelessness, including the long-awaited Gateway Center shelter and services center at the old Lovelace hospital — a project he said has been delayed due to neighborhood opposition and a “neverending purgatory of policy” — and safe outdoor spaces, a concept the City Council last week approved as a new land use in Albuquerque.
Regarding Coronado, the city currently dispatches a multi-department team to temporarily clear and clean up the park every other week. The effort costs $27,154 each time, according to numbers provided to the City Council last month.
Rachel Biggs, chief strategy officer with Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless, said the homeless population experiences violence at a rate 25 times higher than the general population.
In New Mexico, she said, unsheltered homelessness has higher rates of early mortality, dying 20 to 30 years sooner than those who are housed.
Bigg said she believed everyone in the community “can agree that people should not be forced to live outside.”
“I know we are all coming at this from different viewpoints but when we talk about folks living unsheltered in our community we look at it as an issue of human rights, social justice and health for everyone in a community,” she said.
Biggs said AHCH invests time and resources “into solutions that we know hold up to ending homelessness and that is housing.”