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Emotional memorial for slain homeless Navajo men

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Family members of Allison Gorman and Kee Thompson, wept as they haltingly reminded those attending a memorial service Saturday that the two slain men may have been homeless in Albuquerque, but they had large extended families and loving homes on the Navajo reservation.
The emotional service was held at Noon Day Ministries before a crowd of about 100 people, many of them homeless.
Gorman, 44, from Shiprock, and Thompson, 46, from Church Rock, were killed July 19, allegedly by three teens who beat the men to death with a cinder block, metal pole their hands and feet. The victims were sleeping in a vacant field near 60th Street and Central Avenue when the teens came upon them. Police said the men were beaten so savagely that their faces were unrecognizable.
Gorman’s sister, Alberta Gorman Yazzie, said her brother “was a very kind, humble and joyful man” whose nieces called him “a big Teddy Bear.”
He was also a father of two children, grandfather of one, and a devoted son who helped his parents run the family farm near Shiprock. He was good at construction, baked bread, made burritos and was a seven-time champion rodeo steer wrestler, she said.
She also confirmed that her family is a distant cousin and part of the same clan as the late Navajo artist R.C. Gorman.
Stephanie Plummer, sister of Thompson, said her brother’s biological mother died when he was eight, and his aunt, Plummer’s mother, adopted and raised him. While he had no children, Thompson was “extremely close to a nephew and thought of him as his son,” she said. When that nephew died from a heart condition, Thompson became despondent and in 2005 left the reservation.
“He just disappeared for a while and we didn’t know where he was,” Plummer said. A rumor that he had died in an accident brought family members to Albuquerque, where they located Thompson at St. Martin’s Hospitality Center, a day shelter for the homeless. He had been hit by a car and was recovering from his injuries, but he didn’t want to return to the reservation.
“He’d come to think of the homeless people on the streets as his family, and that’s where he said he wanted to be, but he did have a home and people who cared for him and now cry for him.”
Part of the memorial was the reading of a petition prepared by the Gorman family on behalf of themselves and Thompson’s family, saying that because of the “savagery” of the attacks, they were taking the position that “this crime was motivated by hatred because of race, skin color and ethnicity.” Rather than a random act of violence, it was “an explosion of hatred toward Native Americans.”
The petition, with several pages of signatures, asks “the individuals responsible for charging this crime to consider this murder as a hate crime, not based on the victims’ status of being homeless, but based on their race and ethnicity.”
The three Hispanic teens being held in connection with the murders are Alex Rios, 18, Nathaniel Carrillo, 16, and Gilbert Tafoya, 15.
In the wake of the murders, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly met with Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry to discuss the case and strategies for helping the city’s homeless population, particularly homeless Native Americans. At that time, Shelly said he will ask the FBI to independently investigate the case to determine if this was a racially motivated hate crime.


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