'Rampage' in Farmington: Police say gunman fired at random, killing 3 and shooting 6 others - Albuquerque Journal

‘Rampage’ in Farmington: Police say gunman fired at random, killing 3 and shooting 6 others

Authorities investigate the scene of a deadly shooting on North Dustin Avenue in Farmington on Monday. A person in a blue minivan, behind the Ford police unit, was dead in the passenger seat. (Jon Austria/ Albuquerque Journal)

FARMINGTON — An 18-year-old man, firing at least three different weapons, roamed across a Farmington neighborhood on Monday, apparently shooting indiscriminately at anything he saw, police say.

Three people were killed, and the shooter was also shot and killed by police. Six more people were shot and wounded, among them two responding officers, Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said in a video statement released late Monday evening.

“I don’t even know what to say in an event like this. How do you address it?” the chief said. “I have my deepest condolences to the family of the deceased.”

The three people who were killed were all women over the age of 70, according to former state representative James Strickler, who spoke with the Journal following a vigil late Monday.

He said he knew one of them very well, identifying her as a woman in her 80s with five children. He said he heard the other two who were shot were a mother and daughter, in their 90s and 70s.

The younger “was a schoolteacher,” Strickler said. “She taught my neighbor’s kids’ preschool. A great family. We’re a small community and we’re just so heartbroken.”

The identities of the victims and the shooter were not publicly released on Monday.

‘Rampage’ in a quiet neighborhood

The active shooting unfolded in a quiet middle-class neighborhood lined with houses and churches in the heart of Farmington. Ranging across up to a quarter-mile stretch of the neighborhood, and at times using a firearm Hebbe described as an “AR-style rifle,” the shooter fired on at least six houses and three cars in what the chief described as a “rampage.”

“The suspect randomly fired at whatever entered his head to shoot at,” he said. “We are doing the best that we can to … look at the evidence to see if we can figure out what the motivation was. But at this point, it appears to be purely random.”

The suspect was shot and killed by police. He was found in the 700 block of North Dustin Avenue, roughly a mile northeast of Downtown Farmington.

Police were dispatched to the area just before 11 a.m. At 11:05 a.m., Hebbe said, officers announced they’d fired shots and that the shooter was down. At almost the same time, they called out that a Farmington officer was shot, and that they began transporting him to San Juan Regional Medical Center about a minute later.

A New Mexico State Police officer was also shot in the incident, and drove himself to the hospital, Hebbe said. The Farmington officer who was wounded was treated and released, while the state police officer remained in the hospital. He was “doing well,” Hebbe said.

Authorities investigate the scene of a deadly shooting on North Dustin Avenue in Farmington on Monday. Officials say four people were killed and 10 injured, including two police officers. The shooter was among those killed, police said. (Jon Austria/Journal)

SUVs riddled with bullets

Paul Fowler left work early because he didn’t feel well. He lay down on his bed and his family, including two young daughters, left the house on Dustin Avenue.

Ten minutes later he heard gunfire — it sounded close.

“I thought it was directly behind me and the first thing I realized is I didn’t have the gun by me,” Fowler recounted, standing in his neighbor’s driveway just north of the sprawling crime scene. “I hit the floor, I heard it come over my house.”

Fowler said after he heard the gunfire, he remained on the floor for about five minutes — “but it seemed longer” — and then went outside once he heard on the police scanner that the suspect was no longer a threat.

“I know that there were three white SUVs that had been traveling north on Dustin and they all ended up getting shot,” Fowler said. “They ended up, one of them parked over here.”

He said the SUVs were riddled with bullets, sprayed through windshields, front windows and from behind. He said he didn’t know how anyone could survive that type of gunfire.

One woman’s vehicle had a flat tire.

“Even she said that she didn’t realize, she had never even seen the guy,” Fowler recalled, about one of the people who was shot at. “She didn’t realize until the glass shattered and she got sprayed with the glass. She said she ducked down and just floored it, blew through the stop sign and everything.”

Inside the crime scene, a blue minivan could be seen surrounded by police vehicles. A person in the passenger seat was dead. Evidence markers were placed all around it.

“It’s a sad day,” Fowler said.

School lockdowns and investigation

Farmington is a city of roughly 45,000 people about 180 miles northwest of Albuquerque. This is the second active shooting in the area in less than six years.

In December 2017, 21-year-old William Atchison shot and killed two students at Aztec High School before killing himself. Atchison, who had attended the school, had pretended to be a student and entered the building along with other students.

Multiple area school sites were put on lockdown in response to Monday’s shooting, Farmington Municipal Schools spokesman Roberto Taboada said. In a letter to parents, the district referred to the incident as a “series of shootings.”

“Everyone at Farmington schools — the students and the staff — they’re all safe and they’ve been fed,” Taboada told the Journal in an interview.

Farmington Police Officer J. Gordon talks with Farmington resident Jeremy Gerber, as police investigate the scene of a fatal shooting on North Dustin Avenue in Farmington on Monday, May 15, 2023. Gerber’s truck was hit during the shooting. (Jon Austria/Journal)

The area where the shooting unfolded remained taped off into the evening. Officers roamed the streets, taking photos for evidence.

Jeremy Gerber, who lives in the neighborhood, didn’t know what had happened until a friend texted him to ask him if he was OK.

“Dude, there is a shooting at your house,” he said his friend told him.

Gerber raced home to find both windows shot through in the cab of his truck. The bullets pierced his neighbor’s fence and shed.

“It could have been much, much worse,” Gerber said, surveilling the damage and looking toward the crime scene.

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