Immediately after a shootout left a University of New Mexico freshman dead and a New Mexico State University basketball player injured last month, NMSU players and coaches jumped into action.
According to a police report obtained by the Journal’s news gathering partner KOAT-TV, basketball player Mike Peake met up with three of his teammates in a yellow Camaro on campus before police arrived and put his gun and tablet in the trunk.
The Camaro left the scene.
Those teammates then repeatedly called their assistant coach Dominique Taylor and head coach Greg Heiar. But it would take more than 12 hours before the gun ended up in the hands of the New Mexico State Police who investigated the shooting.
Around 3:45 p.m. — after the basketball team had left town and following a flurry of messages involving Heiar and deputy athletics director Braun Cartwright — assistant coach Taylor met with an officer at the DoubleTree hotel and handed him the gun, wrapped in a towel.
“Coach Taylor explained that Issa (Muhammad), Marchelus (Avery), and Anthony (Roy) told coach Heiar where the firearm was at,” the officer wrote in the report. “Coach Heiar then called coach Taylor and told him where the firearm was at and to go get it.”
The gun, a Smith & Wesson with four unspent bullets in it, had been in a hotel room on the second floor but it’s unclear from the report who was staying in that room.
NMSU declined to answer questions from the Journal about the story.
“We aren’t going to comment on an active investigation,” said NMSU Athletics Director Mario Moccia in a phone interview during Monday night’s basketball game in Las Cruces.
In a postgame press conference Heiar declined to answer multiple questions from reporters.
Shootout on campus
Police say the Nov. 19 shooting originated as a plot by three UNM students to lure 21-year-old Peake to campus and “jump” him as revenge for being beaten up during a fight at the Aggies-Lobos football game in Las Cruces the previous month.
Peake — who was in town for a highly-anticipated rivalry game — had been messaging with one of their friends, 17-year-old Mya Hill, so the group planned to attack him when he took an Uber to campus to meet up with her.
When Peake arrived around 3 a.m., Brandon Travis, Jonathan Smith and a young man identified only as “Eli,” confronted him and Travis pulled out a gun, according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court. Travis, 19, shot at Peake and Peake returned fire, killing Travis, according to the complaint. Peake was hit in the leg.
Travis was struck four times — once in the scrotum, twice in the chest and once in the bicep.
Hill was arrested and charged with aggravated battery and conspiracy in children’s court. She has been released from the juvenile detention center on a GPS monitor and has been disenrolled from UNM, according to her attorney.
Smith, 19, was arrested and charged with aggravated battery, conspiracy and tampering with evidence, all felonies. He has been released from jail pending trial and will be staying with his mother in Texas. A UNM spokeswoman could not immediately confirm if he had been disenrolled as well.
Finding the team bus
When he was interviewed, coach Taylor told an officer he had his phone ringer off overnight and so he missed five calls from Muhammad, 11 from Roy and some from Coach Heiar following the shooting. He finally woke up when Heiar called his room phone and told him to come down to the front of the hotel.
Both coaches denied knowing who drives a yellow Camaro but identified Muhammad, Avery and Roy as players on the team.
Taylor told officers that the coaches did rounds at midnight to check if the players were in their rooms and then took turns sitting in the lobby to make sure they weren’t leaving the hotel. He said his shift was from 12:45 a.m. to 2:20 a.m. and around 1:15 a.m. three players — including Peake walked into the hotel. He said he pointed toward the elevators and didn’t have a conversation with them.
The officer asked to speak with Muhammad, Avery and Roy but Heiar had said he had to “check with his AD to see if they needed to get them attorneys first and he would let me know,” according to the report. The officer said he wasn’t able to get in touch with Heiar by phone again.
In the meantime, around 11:30 a.m., the officer saw the team get on the bus to leave town. He left messages for Taylor but did not get a call back.
Instead, Deputy Athletics Director Cartwright called about an hour later to say the bus was headed for Las Cruces but he would try to find out where Peake’s gun and tablet were.
Hill’s attorney, Kari Morrissey, told the Journal that her investigation found that Peake’s coaches were keeping track of him in terms of curfew by monitoring his phone so when he went out he left his phone at the hotel and took his tablet instead.
The officer began driving south on Interstate 25, lights and sirens on, trying to find the bus carrying the NMSU basketball team and the items Peake had given them, according to the report.
“At approximately 12:51 p.m., I receive a text message from NMSU Police Department Lieutenant (Lt.) Nelson McGuire that they could assist us if needed. I contacted Lt. McGuire over the phone and asked if he could get in contact with anyone on the bus to have them pull over,” the officer wrote in the report. “A short while later I receive a text message from Lt. McGuire stating they pulled over at the Fort Craig rest stop…”
At the rest stop the officers were handed Peake’s tablet in a backpack and were told that coach Taylor had the gun back at the DoubleTree hotel, according to the report.
The other involved players said they wanted an attorney and the officer headed back to Albuquerque to get the gun from Taylor.
Muhammad, Avery and Roy all played in Monday night’s game against Division II Simon Fraser University. Taylor was on the team bench coaching.
NMSU announced earlier in the day that Peake had been suspended indefinitely from the team.
Journal staff write Geoff Grammer contributed to this report.