Editorial: Questions abound in wake of fatal campus shooting - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: Questions abound in wake of fatal campus shooting

New Mexico State University has announced it will hire an independent investigator to review last month’s fatal shooting of a University of New Mexico student by an NMSU basketball player.

“We will be incredibly transparent during this process,” NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu said Tuesday in a statement.

It’s about time.

Arvizu was correct when he said, “We owe that to our community and to everyone associated with our university.”

Students, parents, faculty and New Mexico taxpayers deserve answers in the wake of the tragic shooting that rocked the state’s two largest universities.

Among some of the questions?

Why did it take 12 hours for players and coaches to hand over a gun that NMSU basketball player Mike Peake allegedly used to shoot and kill UNM student Brandon Davis on the UNM campus?

Did Peake bring the Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol with him on the university-sponsored road trip, and if so, why? Did other players have guns on the trip?

Why didn’t the NMSU coach who saw Peake and other players enter the hotel after 1 a.m. — long after curfew — the morning of the Nov. 19 shooting say anything to those players? Within a couple hours, Peake had again left the hotel to meet with a female UNM student, which turned out to be a ruse so three other UNM students could “jump” Peake in retaliation of an earlier altercation.

This all occurred the day NMSU and UNM were scheduled to play their in-state rivalry game in the Pit — a game that was canceled hours before tip-off.

The NMSU coaches were interviewed by State Police at about 10 a.m. that day. But why didn’t those coaches return or answer repeated calls from State Police, who called with follow-up questions? Instead, they loaded the bus with the players and headed out of Albuquerque at 11:30 a.m., just eight hours after the campus shootout that left the 19-year-old Davis dead and Peake shot in the leg.

State Police, still looking for the missing gun used to shoot Davis, caught up with the bus at the Fort Craig rest stop, more than halfway back to Las Cruces. It was there that officers were handed Peake’s tablet computer and were told that the gun was back at the Albuquerque hotel.

The more we learn about the circumstances of that tragic night, the more questions arise.

The latest development gleaned from police reports is that Peake’s teammates jumped into action immediately after the 3 a.m. shootout. Three of his teammates arrived in a yellow Camaro, put his gun and tablet in the trunk and left before police arrived.

The players repeatedly called NMSU assistant coach Dominique Taylor and head coach Greg Heiar, but it took until about 3:45 p.m. for Taylor to hand the gun over to State Police.

And why, after NMSU knew that players had not only broken curfew but possibly had hidden evidence in a fatal shooting, did the university allow the players to play in games the days following the shooting?

Instead of embracing transparency, NMSU has declined to answer questions. Heiar, in his first season as NMSU’s head coach, declined to answer multiple questions from reporters during a postgame press conference Monday night.

Heiar was not made available to talk to media until Nov. 29, 10 days after the shooting, when he expressed his condolences for Travis and his family, said he took responsibility for the actions of multiple players who sneaked out of the hotel and said Peake was still on the team.

NMSU Athletics Director Mario Moccia said Monday the 21-year-old Peake had been suspended indefinitely from the team. Moccia says he can’t say more, citing a university disciplinary process.

The independent investigator not only needs to get answers, NMSU needs to share those findings if it has any hope of restoring public trust in one of the state’s most important institutions.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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