Warning: this video contains graphic content
Editor’s note: The following story has been pieced together from lapel video, security footage, police reports and interviews with New Mexico State Police, which is heading up the investigation.
It was a bitterly cold night.
Mya Hill walked out of the Coronado Hall dormitory around 3:12 a.m. to meet 21-year-old Mike Peake. The Aggies hoops player was in town for a rivalry game and snuck out of the team’s hotel to see Hill.
He knew the 17-year-old as “Honey.” She had messaged him “Hurry up pls.”
The pair strolled slowly alongside the dormitories on the University of New Mexico campus. UNM freshman Brandon Travis and two other young men watched from the shadows behind them. The trio approached unseen and Travis picked up speed, a gun in his hand.
The other two seemed to hesitate, one of them holding a bat. Hill peered back as the men got closer but Peake didn’t look until Travis had a gun in his face. He put his hands up, Travis’ accomplice hit him twice with a bat and Peake took off running.
Travis kept pace with him, still holding out his gun. Peake wrestled a gun from inside his hoodie and the men fired at each other several times.
Travis fell down — apparently hit — and kept firing until Peake hit the ground as well. Peake grabbed his tablet and hopped on one leg across Redondo Drive. Travis struggled to get to his feet.
Minutes later, a yellow Camaro pulled into the roundabout on Redondo and three men and a woman got out and approached Peake. One man appeared to put something in the trunk and the woman drove off as police cars pulled up.
On the other side of the building Travis lay face-down on the sidewalk. A white car drove through the lot, passing him without stopping. Three floors up, a dorm light flicked on. Moments later, it went out again.
He was 19-years-old and pursuing a career in the medical field.
Friends interviewed by investigators described Travis as a private person, quiet and mature with a small social circle. He was goofy and likeable. But some said he had recently fallen behind in school and was struggling — he had lost a close friend in a car crash in California, where he was from.
One of the first people to find him on the sidewalk knew him well. The young man told police he took the ski mask off Travis and held his head up.
“I already knew he was gone,” he said.
The friend said Travis had gotten jumped by Peake and others a month earlier at an NMSU, UNM rivalry football game in Las Cruces. Everybody knew about it.
He said many had seen the video of Travis in a fetal position, being beaten.
“He was just mad about getting jumped. That was really it,” the friend said. “I don’t even know what started it, the other people who was with him wasn’t helping him and he just got jumped.”
Investigators asked him, did Travis have a gun?
“Yeah, he had a gun, I seen him with it last night,” the friend told them. Of Peake, he said, “I don’t even know why he would honestly come here, knowing he did what he did.”
Lt. Mark Soriano, a New Mexico State Police spokesman, said the Glock 9mm found on Travis had been reported stolen out of Clovis this year. The gun used by Peake was not stolen.
Soriano said the bat used in the incident has not been found.
The Nov. 19 shooting immediately captured headlines and tainted a decades-long rivalry with New Mexico State University. It also led to criminal charges against Travis’ alleged accomplices, Hill and 19-year-old Jonathan Smith. Eli’sha Upshaw, the person suspected of wielding the bat, has not been charged.
Soriano said detectives are working with prosecutors to determine if there will be charges filed against Upshaw in the case.
All four were UNM students and the three men were members and leaders in the student group Brothers Leading and Cultivating Knowledge. Hill and Upshaw have been disenrolled from UNM. Smith is living with family in Texas, pending trial in the case.
The ensuing investigation has also resulted in the indefinite suspension of Peake from the team. Three other Aggie players — Issa Muhammad, Anthony Roy and Marchelus Avery — who police say helped Peake hide a gun and tablet were suspended for one game.
Hours of lapel footage shows frustration as State Police investigators followed leads and tried to collect evidence. Bernalillo County prosecutors and independent investigators hired by NMSU are looking into the actions of those players, coaches and other university staff members.
What follows is a timeline of the investigation as it played out.
9:47 a.m., Nov. 19, DoubleTree hotel parking lot Downtown Albuquerque
New Mexico State Police Agent David Esquibel met with NMSU Head Coach Greg Heiar. Heiar, looking distressed, sat in the passenger’s seat of Esquibel’s vehicle.
“Are you going to tell me what’s going on? Because I don’t really know anything,” Heiar said, adding that he only knew what the UNM athletic director told them and that the teams are talking about canceling that night’s game.
Heiar told the officer he knew Peake was involved but said he “inherited him” as a player and assistant coach Dominique Taylor knew him better.
Esquibel explained the “Tinder date” scenario as they understood it at that time.
“Now we have Michael, who was struck by gunfire, at the hospital and we have a UNM student deceased,” he said. Esquibel told Heiar that Peake met with a group in a yellow Camaro between the shooting and being taken to the hospital.
“This is all new to me,” Heiar responded.
The coach told Esquibel he hadn’t seen any team members yet and they were supposed to meet at 10:30 a.m.
“I’m just shaking, I’m just sick to my stomach. This is so terrible and disappointing,” Heiar said. “It was a Tinder date? What the (expletive) is he having a Tinder date … Are you sure it wasn’t a woman’s basketball player?”
Esquibel told Heiar they are trying to find the woman and didn’t know who she was.
“We don’t know if this is some sort of rivalry, or set up. We don’t know what it is at this point,” he said.
Heiar asked if Peake was acting “in self defense.”
The coach told Esquibel, “People say a New Mexico State basketball player shot a student, that’s not going to go over well in front of 15,000 people, you know what I mean? This is about the safety of everybody.”
Heiar said Peake is “going to have a long road ahead of him no matter what.”
“He may never play basketball a second again for me ever again. That’s just the reality,” he said.
Esquibel told Heiar that the coaching staff cannot speak with Peake until police have and Heiar asked about getting Peake an attorney.
“He don’t really have a family so he’s kind of on his own,” the coach said.
Esquibel emphasized that the Camaro “seems to be a very big piece of it.”
“We believe Michael’s weapon that he used is in the trunk of that car,” he said.
Heiar told Esquibel he can try to get “as much information” as he can from players. The coach added, “I’m all about making sure this — for everybody — that everybody does (expletive) the right way. If anyone knows anything.”
10:03 a.m. Assistant Coach Dominique Taylor swaps places with Heiar
“I don’t think I really need to go into a lot of detail of what happened. I’m sure you kind of have an idea, a gist,” Esquibel told Taylor.
Taylor replied, “a gist.”
Taylor told Esquibel he missed five calls from Issa Muhammad and 11 from Anthony Roy in the “middle of the night.” He said Heiar woke him in the morning and they went to the hospital, but couldn’t see Peake.
Taylor said they were given bits and pieces of information from UNM officials. He told Esquibel he had a “tough phone call” with Peake’s guardians, noting Peake’s father was murdered “when (Peake) was young.”
Taylor told Esquibel no players are from “affluent families” to afford a Camaro and they all travel on the bus. He said he didn’t think they had friends in the city.
Taylor told Esquibel he was “pretty in the loop” with players and their various social circles.
Esquibel told Taylor the players in the Camaro “are going to be very important people to talk to.”
“If you find out anything about that yellow Camaro I need you to call me immediately,” he said. “… We need to locate that Camaro.”
Esquibel added, “Those other three players, you know they know what happened because they met with Mike. These kids, they talk. … We know that there’s a gun now floating around.”
In a phone call, Taylor told Esquibel the coaching staff did room checks at midnight. He said, over the next few hours, they rotated sitting in the lobby to watch for players coming or going.
Taylor said his shift was from 12:45 to 2:20 a.m. and he saw three guys walk in around 1:15 a.m. He said it was Peake, Xavier Pinson and William “Deuce” Benjamin II.
“I just pointed to the elevator to get to their rooms,” Taylor said.
Esquibel tried to call both coaches from the parking lot but got no answer. He left a message for both.
“Coach Taylor, just trying to get an update I’m starting to see some of the players exiting the hotel and going to the bus,” Esquibel said. “Obviously, this is a very important matter and we’re trying to find some people who are missing from this incident that took place. Can you give me a call back please?”
12:28 p.m. UNM campus
State Police Agent Russell Martinez sat down with Eli’sha Upshaw inside a common room at the university. During the interview, Upshaw was visibly emotional, at times crying over his friend Travis’ death.
Upshaw, who said he is in the Army Reserve, denied being involved.
He told Martinez he met Travis the first couple days of school and the pair “kind of just clicked.” Upshaw said they kept a small circle of friends and were both in Brothers Leading and Cultivating Knowledge.
He told Martinez that Travis was a quiet person and had faced some recent struggles but called him “one of the most laid back people I know.” Upshaw said Travis texted him around 2 a.m. to play a video game but he was asleep.
At that point, Upshaw broke down in tears before regaining his composure.
He told Martinez he had been at the game in Las Cruces and, at one point, walked up to a crowd and saw Travis on the ground, being kicked. Upshaw said he jumped into the fight to help his friend.
“We were all pretty upset about it … as anyone would be if they got jumped over a girl,” he told Martinez, adding that the fight was over another friend who was cuddling up with a girl who went to NMSU.
When asked about guns, Upshaw said he had gone to a gun range with Travis. He said Travis had talked about wanting to buy a gun but he didn’t think he had one.
12:33 p.m., DoubleTree parking lot
Agent Esquibel called NMSU Deputy Athletic Director Braun Cartwright, who was in Missouri for an Aggies game, and told him Peake said he gave a tablet and gun to Issa Muhammad and Anthony Roy.
Esquibel told Cartwright that Heiar hasn’t been returning his calls and he had watched players get on the bus “and take off already.”
“I was getting ready to go into the hotel and recover those items — those are evidence and we need those,” Esquibel said. “We don’t want anyone else to get hemmed up for tampering with evidence.”
The agent told Cartwright if those players were on the bus and left the hotel “they need to come back.”
“Because I’m going to assume that — if they left for good — they did not leave those items in the hotel room,” Esquibel said.
After the call, Esquibel tried to call Taylor again.
The phone rang several times and it sounded like someone picked up but then hung up immediately.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Esquibel said under his breath.
1:31 p.m. UNM
State Police Sgt. Phillip Vargas escorted Mya Hill, who was clad in a Playboy sweater and hairnet, to a room at the UNM police station.
Hill initially told Vargas the incident was random and denied involvement.
“Here’s the thing, Mya, you’re lying to us. I don’t think you’re the mastermind … I think you got wrapped up in some (expletive),” Vargas told her. “We’re giving you the opportunity to tell us your part, the role that you played, how this thing went down. Was it simply because of a beef or was it something else?”
Hill told Vargas she went with a large group, including Travis and Smith, to the football game in Las Cruces and rented an Airbnb. She said she saw Peake at the game and reached out to him on Instagram.
Hill said she didn’t see the fight but heard about it from Travis and the others when they got back to their Airbnb afterward. She saw video of it on Snapchat.
Hill said Travis was obsessed with her setting up Peake ever since.
“It was on his mind heavy,” she told Vargas. “If you had seen how Brandon got jumped, I’m not condoning what he did, but I see why he did what he did.”
Hill added, “He had a reason to want to hurt this (expletive).”
Vargas asked her what the plan was.
“Nobody was supposed to die, nobody was supposed to get shot. The plan was that they just wanted to jump him,” Hill said. She said they were all drinking in Travis’ dorm when he asked her to set up Peake.
“I honestly did like Michael, I didn’t want to hurt this man,” Hill told Vargas.
She said Smith was telling Travis the “whole plan wasn’t even worth it” and tried to convince him not to go through with it. Hill said Upshaw was “getting scared.”
But she said Travis “just convinced them.”
She told Vargas, “I didn’t even know Brandon had a gun.”
Hill said she ran inside the dorm and heard banging, and she threw up before going to sleep.
Vargas asked, “Ultimately, why did you do it?”
Hill replied, “I just didn’t want to be threatened.”
Hill told Vargas she “likes to fight” and has already lost friends in life, including 14-year-old Andrew Burson, who was fatally shot outside West Mesa High School in February.
Toward the end of the interview, Hill asked, “What do you think the outcome is going to be for me?”
Vargas told her, “You know what? The truth goes a long way, I know some people don’t believe that, but it really does.”
Then Hill started to cry.
“I feel like if I hadn’t called Michael here last night, Brandon would still be alive and ya’ll wouldn’t have this problem,” she said. “… I feel like I have blood on my hands even though I didn’t pull the trigger.”
1:21 p.m. Interstate 25, between Albuquerque and Socorro
Esquibel sped down the highway with his sirens blaring to catch the NMSU bus.
He had spent the past two hours trying to call Heiar and Taylor to no avail.
An NMSU police lieutenant contacted Esquibel as he drove south on I-25 and the agent asked him to tell someone on the bus to pull over. The lieutenant messaged him back that the bus had pulled over at the Fort Craig rest stop and that the gun was back at the DoubleTree with Taylor.
“If they just hand over the tablet and phone, we’re good to go,” he told someone in a call. Esquibel called his supervisor and told him he had heard the gun was with Taylor at the hotel.
At one point Esquibel scrolled through messages, and yelled — apparently in frustration.
1:42 p.m. Fort Craig rest stop
The team’s bus stopped at the rest area where Esquibel met with Lorenzo Jenkins, special assistant to the head coach, to get Peake’s tablet.
“Man, this got complicated — moving pieces — trying to catch up to you guys. I didn’t know you guys were leaving,” he told Jenkins. Jenkins took Peake’s bloodied tablet from a backpack and gave it to Esquibel.
“Do you have any clue about his phone?” the agent asked.
Jenkins replied, “I have no clue what’s going on with his phone.”
Esquibel told Jenkins that Peake was being cooperative and told them where the gun was and gave the passcodes to his phone and tablet.
“Technically, in this whole thing he’s a victim,” he said.
Jenkins called someone from the rest stop to ask where Peake’s phone was and replied afterward that “nobody knows where the phone is.”
Jenkins told Esquibel that Muhammad, Avery and Roy — who were on the bus feet away — wanted to get a lawyer before talking to police.
Before the bus leaves, Esquibel has Jenkins make a list for him of who was on the bus and who wasn’t.
2:03 p.m. somewhere along I-25
Esquibel called Taylor after hearing he had the gun.
“Can you do me a huge favor? I already released the bus and I don’t want to have to stop the bus again and make them wait,” he asked. “Can you take a photo of it, text it to me so I can verify you have it and it’s not on the bus.”
Taylor can be heard on speakerphone, “It’s like wrapped up in something and I really don’t want to touch it.”
Within seconds Esquibel got an alert on his phone and pulled up a message showing a gun sitting on a towel.
3:42 p.m. UNM
Agent Russell Martinez led a handcuffed Upshaw into the UNM police station.
Court records show Upshaw was asked to do a second interview and declined. He has not been charged in the incident.
3:44 p.m. DoubleTree
Esquibel took an elevator to the third floor of the hotel where he met Taylor in a hallway. The assistant coach leaned against a wall, looking stressed.
“Sheesh,” he said. The gun was wrapped in a towel on a table beside him.
“You haven’t touched it at all? So you don’t know if its loaded or anything,” Esquibel asked as he looked over the gun. He put the gun and towel in a paper bag.
He asked Taylor, “So how did you come about getting it?”
“They called me, I guess you spoke to our (athletic director). … Somebody said Mike told you guys what he had done with the items. And then when they were on the bus they called me to say, ‘The guys said they left it in their room’ or whatever,” Taylor said. “I was like ‘OK, well where is it?’ and so I went upstairs, picked it up, brought it upstairs and then I called the athletic director and I go ‘Hey I have it, what do I do with it?’ He was like ‘Just leave it, they’ll come get it.’ I was like ‘I already brought it to my room,’ he was like ‘Alright you haven’t touched it?’ I was like ‘It was already wrapped up in something and I just brought it upstairs’ and then that was pretty much it.”
Taylor told Esquibel that Avery, Roy and Muhammad had told them where to find the gun in room 209 on the second floor. On the elevator, Taylor said “it’s a normal day for you, not a normal day for a basketball coach.”
“This is upsetting, even for me. I don’t like to see kids do … you know … they’re in school and stuff,” the agent replied.
Before Esquibel left, Taylor told him, “I know that the phone showed up and they said they were trying to reach out to whoever — how to get it to you guys.”
Taylor said “the boys” saw the address of “some chick” on Snapchat and were “under the impression that the girl set him up.”
Esquibel said, “That’s kind of what we’re thinking already.”
5:32 p.m. UNM Hospital
Esquibel went to Peake’s hospital bed where the player was quiet, almost somber.
The agent wanted Peake to sign consent forms for them to search his phone and process the gun for evidence and ballistics testing.
Peake tried to call his lawyer but got no answer. He signed the forms.
“It might take a while but eventually you should get your weapon back, it might take a minute though,” Esquibel told him.
Peake replied, “I was about to say that’s my only weapon, I can’t be … They’ll just send it to my house or I would have to come up and get it?”
Esquibel told Peake he would have to come get the gun.
Before Esquibel could leave, Peake’s lawyers called and told the agent to leave the forms so he could explain them to Peake.
Esquibel told the attorney that Peake “already signed them” but agreed to wait for consent until the attorney could speak with his client.
5:39 p.m. Las Cruces
State Police Agent John Falcon traveled to the Las Cruces home of Senior Associate Athletic Director Ed Posaski to get Peake’s phone.
Posaski, wearing an NMSU sweater with the words “Making History,” signed a form to hand over the phone. Falcon asked if he had any questions.
“Nothing really, I’m happy just to pass the phone along. Get it out of my possession,” Posaski said. At one point the phone got an alert of some kind.
“It’s on and that stuff’s been coming through throughout the day” he said, referring to the phone.
10:18 p.m. UNM
State Police Officer Miguel Gayton spoke with Smith and his family in a room on campus. A relative told Smith, “either you coming with me or you going down. You need to be away from here, OK?”
Court records show that Smith told police about his involvement in the plot to lure Peake to get jumped outside the campus. Like Hill, he told police he didn’t know Travis was going to pull out a gun.
11:30 a.m., Nov. 30, NMSU Athletic Offices
The final lapel video released was taken more than a week after the shooting.
More than a dozen State Police officers gathered outside NMSU’s Pan American Center. They fanned out and questioned those who left the building, apparently looking for the players who helped Peake — Avery, Roy and Muhammad.
“How are you doing sir, are you Mr. Anthony Roy? No?” Agent Antonio Carrillo asked a man walking to his vehicle. “Where you headed to?”
The man replied he was on his way to get a haircut.
Carrillo pulled up a picture of Roy on his phone.
“Is that Anthony Roy? I can’t tell if that’s him or not,” he whispered to another agent. A law enforcement officer said it wasn’t him and the man left.
Several State Police investigators eventually filed into the NMSU athletics office to hand search warrants to Heiar, the head coach. They spoke with Heiar in his office and, at one point, are heard asking his attorney’s name.
“Sir by any chance any contact with Anthony Roy or any other players that we’re trying to talk to?” Carrillo asked Heiar. The coach shook his head and said “no.”
It was hours before NMSU played against UTEP.
Before leaving, another officer asked, “And do you have a way to get a hold of these three players?”
Heiar replied, “I don’t, no,” over his shoulder as he walked into his office, his hands full of documents.
“So they’ll be at the game tonight though, right?” the officer asked.
Heiar replied, “Yeah they’ll be at the game.”
The team went on to rout UTEP 95 to 70 in a one-sided win. It was vengeance — after UTEP beat NMSU weeks earlier.