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Jada Gonzales had just turned 18 and recently received a full four-year scholarship to attend college. The Albuquerque Academy senior held down two jobs – one as a camp counselor at a city-run community center – and was considering a career working with children in the future, maybe as a pediatrician.
Early Sunday morning Gonzales was at a house party in a West Side neighborhood when police say at least two people began firing guns. Gonzales was inside the home and was struck by a bullet.
She was taken to the hospital, where she died.
Her parents could not be reached Monday, but details about who she was were published on a GoFundMe site raising money for her funeral and in a letter to parents from the head of school at Albuquerque Academy.
The Journal had interviewed Gonzales in February about her work with young children in the city’s therapeutic recreation program at Holiday Park Community Center.
Julianne Puente, the head of school, said the close-knit senior class of about 170 – as well as the Academy community as a whole – is shaken by the news of Gonzales’ death.
In a letter to sophomores, juniors and seniors, Puente said Gonzales was a talented photographer and artist “who loved exploring connections between her home in Albuquerque and her ties to her family in Zuni Pueblo.”
“She was a vivid writer who saw connections everywhere and appreciated the deep beauty of all that life had to offer,” Puente said. “She was gentle, kind, and always considerate toward everyone in her community. Fiercely loyal and possessing a lively sense of humor, she was unafraid of leaning into challenging conversations.”
Puente urged students to reach out to an adviser or school counselor if they need extra support or just want to talk.
‘A deadly mix’
Winter break began on Friday evening for the 1,184 students of Albuquerque Academy. They won’t return to class until Jan. 3.
On Saturday, Gonzales attended a party at a home on the 5200 block of La Bajada NW – a dead end road near the base of Pat Hurley Park.
Gilbert Gallegos, an Albuquerque Police Department spokesman, said homicide detectives have determined that shortly before 1 a.m. “at least two shooters” fired guns during the party.
Gonzales was hit.
Gallegos said APD leaders and victim advocates have been in touch with Gonzales’ family and Albuquerque Academy.
Police Chief Harold Medina said the investigation is very complex due to the number of people who were at the party as well as several other factors.
“But we do know that this shooting stemmed from a house party with alcohol, uninvited and underage guests and the presence of firearms. That is a deadly mix that often leads to tragedy,” Medina said. “I am truly saddened by the senseless death of a promising young member of our community with great hopes and aspirations.”
‘An exemplary student’
When she was interviewed by the Journal, Gonzales described her long-term career goal as working with children in some way and said her job at the community center had made her more aware of others’ struggles.
She said she was putting her paychecks toward future college expenses and although she could have made more money elsewhere, interacting with kids made the job fun and “brightens your day.”
Instead of planning a graduation ceremony the family is now making funeral arrangements, Gonzales’ mother wrote on a GoFundMe page.
Kateri Sanchez said Gonzales will be missed immensely by her, her father and two brothers as well as many others.
“She had plans of attending TCU. My daughter was an exemplary student in her last year as a senior at Albuquerque Academy. She held two jobs; one as a receptionist at Sharky’s Cuts for Kids and as a camp counselor at a local community center,” Sanchez wrote. “There is so much more I could say about Jada but words are failing me as I type this. This is the greatest pain I’ve ever known and not one I’d wish any parent to ever feel.”
The Albuquerque Police Department is asking anyone who has video of the shooting to share it with investigators at: https://albuquerquepdnm.evidence.com/axon/citizen/public/la_bajada_party_shooting