DA's office investigating NMSU staff and players - Albuquerque Journal

DA’s office investigating NMSU staff and players

Police cordon off a portion of Redondo Drive on Nov. 19, after a University of New Mexico student was killed and a New Mexico State basketball player was injured in a shooting outside a dormitory. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office is investigating the conduct of New Mexico State University employees and players in connection with a fatal shooting by an NMSU basketball player in Albuquerque after it took hours for police to obtain the gun used in the shooting from a coach.

Meanwhile, NMSU officials said Tuesday the school will hire an external, third-party investigator to review the Nov. 19 fatal shooting and the university’s response to it.

The announcements came a day after the Journal and KOAT-TV reported that an assistant coach turned over to police the gun the basketball player used during the shooting, and a tablet was recovered from the team’s bus on its way to Las Cruces.

“The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office is actively working with the New Mexico State Police to investigate the conduct of the New Mexico State University staff and players,” said Lauren Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office. “We are still continuing to receive evidence regarding this case and will evaluate the materials as they are submitted.”

Mike Peake, an NMSU basketball player, was shot in the leg on the University of New Mexico’s campus at around 3 a.m. the day of a rivalry game between the Lobos and Aggies. Peake was approached by three UNM students, one armed with a bat and another with a gun, according to police reports.

Peake, who was armed with a gun at the time, exchanged fire with Brandon Travis, fatally shooting the UNM student, according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court. Another UNM student hit Peake in the leg with a bat prior to the shooting, according to the complaint.

More than 12 hours after the shooting, Dominique Taylor, an NMSU assistant coach, gave police the gun that Peake had used. Police also recovered a bloody tablet that Peake had at the time of the shooting from the team’s bus, which had left Albuquerque and was on its way back to Las Cruces when police were able to get the bus to pull over.

NMSU officials said that the external review will be separate from an ongoing legal investigation being conducted by New Mexico State Police. They said they would make an executive summary of the report publicly available once it is completed.

“We will be incredibly transparent during this process,” NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu said in a statement. “We owe that to our community and to everyone associated with our university. The firm selected will be encouraged to review any public documents regarding this case and be fully empowered to speak with any NMSU employees, students or other individuals necessary to ensure we fully understand the facts.”

Arvizu said the review would also examine the university’s response in the days following the shooting.

“If there is anything we should have done differently, this report will let us know. In the last day, we have received a number of new questions regarding this case. Unfortunately, some of what’s been reported in the media is information NMSU has not been provided,” Arvizu said. “To be fair to all involved, it’s important to have a more detailed understanding of what has occurred.”

The police reports show a State Police officer spent several hours interviewing and calling NMSU officials and coaches in an effort to obtain the gun and other evidence linked to the shooting.

The reports say the officer interviewed NMSU head coach Greg Heiar and assistant coach Taylor at around 10 a.m. the day of the shooting. For about six hours after those interviews, the officer made several calls to the coaches that weren’t answered or returned, though some NMSU athletics officials and university police officers were in contact with the officer.

At one point, the officer makes a call and it “sounds like someone answers the phone and they immediately hang up on me,” the report says.

Taylor ultimately wrapped the gun in a towel and turned it over to the police officer at the DoubleTree Hotel in Downtown Albuquerque, where the team had been staying.

Law enforcement continues to investigate a deadly shooting on the UNM campus. Brandon Travis, a 19-year-old UNM student, was killed and Mike Peake, a New Mexico State University basketball player, was injured. (Chancey Bush/Albuquerque Journal)

Shooting on campus

Court documents indicate that the shooting, which happened near Coronado Hall, was planned in response to a fight at the NMSU-UNM football game in Las Cruces the previous month.

Three UNM students were allegedly involved in that fight, as was Peake, who allegedly beat up the three UNM students, according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court.

One of the UNM students’ friends, 17-year-old Mya Hill, was messaging Peake, who took an early-morning Uber ride to campus to meet up with her.

It was then that the three students – Travis, Jonathan Smith and someone identified as “Eli” – approached Peake outside the dorm.

Eli has not been charged with a crime, but police have identified him and confiscated his phone.

State Police on Tuesday released recordings from security cameras on UNM’s campus that show parts of the shooting and the events leading up to it.

The shooting happened in a parking lot near Coronado Hall. The recording shows a person – presumably Peake – running from two other people. One of them appears to be Travis, who is close behind Peake and appears to be shooting at him.

Peake turns and fires at Travis, who falls to the ground.

The recording shows Travis struggle as he attempts to crawl away before he collapses. He was shot a total of four times, including one shot that pierced his lung and was listed in the autopsy report as the cause of death.

Peake hops away on one foot. Shortly after, three teammates – Issa Muhammad, Marcelus Avery and Anthony Roy – drive up in a yellow Camaro, though it’s not clear who owned the vehicle. Peake is seen on surveillance video placing items in the Camaro before it drives off.

Peake was taken to University of New Mexico Hospital in an ambulance, where he was treated for his injuries.

Police attempted to interview the three NMSU basketball players, but an NMSU official told police they wanted to have attorneys before talking to officers, according to the NMSP report.

Smith, 19, was arrested and charged with aggravated battery, conspiracy and tampering with evidence – all felonies. He has been released from jail and is staying with his mother in Texas ahead of his trial.

Hill was arrested, and charged with aggravated battery and conspiracy in children’s court. She has been released from detention on an ankle monitor.

Police reports released Tuesday show that, after the shooting, officers executed search warrants at two rooms in Coronado Hall and one apartment at Lobo Village. One phone was seized as a result of those warrants.

Schools respond

In response to the shooting, UNM and NMSU canceled two rivalry games that were to be played this year.

UNM installed metal detectors at the entrances to University Arena, where the team plays its basketball games – although that was in the works before the shooting.

Peake has been indefinitely suspended from the team, according to NMSU coaches.

It wasn’t clear if other NMSU players, who coaches have said broke curfew the night of shooting, will face any discipline.

Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to accurately reflect who picked up Mike Peake from the University of New Mexico’s campus after he was shot. He was taken to a local hospital in an ambulance.

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