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Ten days after his starting power forward was shot and hospitalized after a 3 a.m. shootout on the University of New Mexico campus that left a UNM student dead, New Mexico State University basketball coach Greg Heiar was apologetic Tuesday, and said he takes responsibility for what happened.
It was the first time the first-year Aggies coach has spoken publicly about the shooting. He, and the school, remain tight-lipped about what, if any, discipline has been taken on players who snuck out of their Albuquerque hotel the morning of the shooting, among them the hospitalized Mike Peake. Nor have they spoken about the involvement of Peake and a teammate in an Oct. 15 brawl in Las Cruces at the UNM-NMSU rivalry football game that police now say was the precursor to the revenge plot turned deadly at UNM.
Investigators say 19-year-old Brandon Travis and three others conspired on Nov. 19 to attack Peake on UNM’s campus as a way to pay him back for the fight at the football game. Peake, in Albuquerque to play the Lobos later that day, snuck out and brought a gun. Police say he returned fire on Travis during the attack.
“I’m apologetic about what happened. I take full responsibility for what happened,” Heiar said. “And we’re going to continue to get better as a basketball team and put a great product on the court and … off the court. And, just, I take full responsibility for what happened. And that’s … I can’t say anything more than that.”
Heiar opened his usual weekly news conference, which normally would have been to discuss the team’s Wednesday night home game against the rival UTEP Miners, reading a statement about the shooting.
“First of all, a young man lost his life last weekend. We think it is important to make sure that we do not forget about that as we discuss this tragedy,” Heiar said. “We sympathize with this community, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the young man who passed away.
“I felt sadness and disappointment upon learning about the situation that morning. Within our program, we preach about the importance of representing the institution, our community and themselves the right way. Unfortunately, the decisions that Mike (Peake) made last weekend resulted in consequences that he will have to live with the rest of his life. With that, Mike Peake is still part of our family. In this family, we care for each other. We love each other. And, right now, he needs us more than ever.”
Heiar did not have an update on Peake’s medical status, though Peake has posted on social media that he has had three surgeries.
On Nov. 23, four days after the shooting, NMSU held a 90-minute video conference with Chancellor Dan Arvizu, Dean of Students Ann Goodman and Athletic Director Mario Moccia. They said, in part, that student discipline could not be discussed due to federal privacy law, but any discipline as it relates to a player’s status on a team or playing time could be answered by a coach.
On Tuesday, Heiar said he could not answer those questions.
“I cannot disclose how many players have been disciplined, which players have been disciplined or the nature of the discipline,” Heiar said. “I will say we found out we had multiple players out of (their) rooms that night. And we’re now confident each of our players fully understands what’s expected of them.”
The Aggies played two games last week in Las Vegas, Nevada, and host UTEP on Wednesday.
Peake has not yet made a formal comment and a request by a Journal reporter through social media to speak has not yet been granted.
Moccia last week said he spoke with Peake, whose first words were that Heiar and the coaching staff did all they could.
On social media, the 21-year-old Peake has interacted with well-wishers and posted his own frustrations with some people’s response to the shooting.
“Just up looking through my social media gang and I can honestly say some of you ‘Fans of Nmsu’ wanted a different outcome of that night,” Peake wrote on his Facebook page Sunday morning. “Regardless the situation I made a Horrible decision that night by stepping out at 3AM in ALL AGGIE GEAR but do you think I would’ve stepped out if I knew I were to be set up by 4 FRIENDS that knew each other very well. And I came ALONE. Some of y’all “Opinions” just sound kindergarten fr., but it’s all good fasho imma come back stronger mentally and physically shorty ‘n I stand on my business in every which way. #seeyallnextyear”
Former Aggie basketball player Shawn Harrington, who has used a wheelchair since a bullet pierced his spine the morning of Jan. 30, 2014, while driving his daughter to school in Chicago, is in Las Cruces and plans to attend Wednesday’s game.
Like Peake, Harrington is from Chicago and is now an anti-gun violence activist who is the subject of the 2018 book “All the Dreams We’ve Dreamed” about gun violence in Chicago. It was written by NMSU English professor Rus Bradburd, a former NMSU and UTEP assistant coach.
Asked if Harrington was going to talk to his team, Heiar said he hoped so. “I’d love for him to have an opportunity to speak to the team,” said Heiar.