Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
After a brawl broke out at last month’s Aggies-Lobos football game in Las Cruces, investigators say three University of New Mexico students decided they wanted revenge.
So the freshmen hatched a plan to lure New Mexico State University basketball player Mike Peake – who along with his friends, they said, had beaten them up “badly” – to campus while he was in town for a highly-anticipated rivalry basketball game over the weekend and “jump” him.
Instead there was a shootout that left 19-year-old UNM student Brandon Travis dead and 21-year-old Peake injured. Police say both men had guns.
Peake has not been charged with a crime.
But two of the three remaining alleged co-conspirators have.
UNM student Jonathan Smith, 19, has been arrested and charged with aggravated battery, conspiracy and tampering with evidence, all felonies. Prosecutors have asked for him to be held in jail pending trial. His attorney did not have any comment at this time.
Mya Hill – a 17-year-old UNM freshman who told police she persuaded Peake to take an Uber to campus by saying she would have sex with him – was booked into the juvenile detention center Saturday night. She is charged with aggravated battery and conspiracy in children’s court. It’s unclear who her attorney will be.
In a letter to students, parents, employees and alumni on Sunday, NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu stressed the importance of not rushing to judgment until all the facts are available.
“Any untimely passing is a tragedy, but it’s especially heartbreaking when it involves students and happens on a university campus,” Arvizu wrote. “I’ve spoken with UNM President Garnett Stokes and relayed my sympathies and those of our entire NMSU community.”
Saturday night’s basketball game between the Lobos and Aggies was cancelled and NMSU said it doesn’t know yet if it will be rescheduled. It also doesn’t know if the Dec. 3 game with UNM scheduled to play in Las Cruces will happen.
The Aggies travel to Las Vegas, Nev., on Thursday to play in a two-day event there on Friday and Saturday and confirmed there are no plans to miss those games.
Following the shooting, investigators found security camera video footage that showed Peake walking with a young woman outside Coronado Hall, according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed in Metropolitan Court.
The video shows three men approach Peake and one point a gun at him.
“Two other males stood behind Michael and one of those males hit Michael on his right leg with a bat,” the detective wrote in the affidavit. “Michael ran and the male with the gun fired at Michael several times. Michael pulled a gun out from his waist area and shot back at the male who was shooting at him. Michael struck the male and the male fired back striking Michael on his leg.”
Peake ran off and called for help. He also called some of his teammates, and they alerted coaches, according to NMSU.
Travis – who was pursuing a bachelor of science in dental hygiene – died at the scene.
Detectives talked with Travis’ roommate, and he told them Travis, Smith, and another student he knew as “Honey” met up in their dorm room in the early morning hours. A housing administrator identified “Honey” as Hill – who is studying art studio in the College of Fine Arts.
According to the affidavit, Hill told detectives she and Travis were friends and after she told him she had been talking to Peake, he asked her to set him up.
She said she walked into the residence hall when the fight started and then heard noises she later realized were gunshots. Then she threw up in the bathroom because she was drunk.
When he was interviewed, Smith – who is pursuing a bachelor of arts in pre-communication – told detectives that he, Travis and another young man were at the Oct. 15 football game between NMSU and UNM in Las Cruces when they “got into a fight and got jumped.”
UNM & NMSU pic.twitter.com/Uny3FGzS1h
— Lil Mocha (@Tionneomo) October 16, 2022
A minute-long video posted on Twitter the following day appears to show nearly a dozen people – including what appears to be Peake and at least one other basketball player – fighting in the walkway of the crowded Aggie Memorial Stadium in Las Cruces while the game was being played.
A State Police officer can be seen stepping in to break up the fight.
A State Police spokesman would not confirm if this was the same fight that involved Travis and Smith.
NMSU said Monday that instead of holding a live media session to take questions about the incident, it would take questions submitted in writing. It later posted a Q&A on its website with some of those questions.
In it NMSU said the administration was aware of fights during the football game and it had referred those incidents to the dean of students for further inquiry.
“There were multiple fights that day,” it said in response to questions about whether anyone was disciplined. “In some of those instances, the students involved were unable to be positively identified. In other instances, federal privacy rules prevent the university from publicly providing additional details.”
Return to the scene
Smith said that when the group learned Peake was coming to Albuquerque and had been talking with Hill they planned to get revenge for what had happened at the football game. He said he knew Travis had a gun but hadn’t known he was going to bring it with him and they hadn’t discussed it.
Smith said their friend – identified in the affidavit only as “Eli” – had hit Peake in the leg with a bat before the shootout. A State Police spokesman said investigators have identified a third suspect and are working with the District Attorney’s Office to determine what charges, if any, he should face.
As shots rang out, Smith and Eli ran away.
They called 911 and pressed a campus call button for help and then changed clothes, throwing their old clothes into a sewer near Lobo Village, according to the affidavit. Then they went back to campus and saw that Travis was dead.
“They blended into the crowd and watched as police tried to help Brandon,” the detective wrote. “Jonathan stated while they were in the crowd Eli grabbed a male and pinned him up against the wall because he was laughing while they were watching Brandon. Jonathan pulled Eli off the male, and they left.”
As the rest of the team headed back to Las Cruces on Saturday, some of the athletics personnel remained behind to be with Peake, Chancellor Arvizu said in his letter.
In its Q&A, NMSU acknowledged other basketball players also violated curfew early Saturday morning, but said they weren’t involved in the shooting. It then cited federal privacy laws and said it could not comment on whether Peake or any other players will face disciplinary action – either for Saturday’s incident or their involvement in the Oct. 15 fight.
NMSU coaches, like those with colleges across the country, regularly confirm when discipline matters lead to a player being benched or suspended.
When asked if that was a violation of the same privacy laws now being cited, an NMSU spokesperson replied in an email that “team discipline action is at the discretion of the coach. If you’re looking for info on team discipline, that question would have to go to the coach.”
In the same email, NMSU confirmed neither NMSU basketball coach Greg Heiar nor NMSU Athletic Director Mario Moccia are being made available to talk to the media about this matter.
NMSU did say that when bed checks were done at 11:45 p.m. on Friday night at the team hotel in downtown Albuquerque – the team stayed at the Double Tree – all players were in their rooms. NMSU added that an assistant coach was in the lobby from midnight until 2 a.m.
Student athletes are not allowed to bring guns on team trips, NMSU said, adding that “possession, use or distribution of any weapon on university property or at a sponsored university activity is a violation of university student code of conduct.”
As to whether student athletes’ bags are checked before they get on the team bus: “Prior to this event, they were not. Going forward, they will be,” NMSU said.
Journal Staff Writer Geoff Grammer contributed to this report.