Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal
An assistant principal at Manzano High School was shot and critically injured Thursday night by a man police say was a jealous husband. That man then committed suicide on the steps of a Northeast Heights church, police say.
Craig Cuthbert believed his wife was having an affair, police say. On Thursday, they say, he confronted Manzano assistant principal James Chacho, the man he believed to be her lover.
Cuthbert shot Chacho in the chest and neck before turning the gun on himself outside Faith Lutheran Church near Eubank and Spain NE, according to a department spokesman.
Chacho, 42, had started his first school year at Manzano after serving as principal or assistant principal at several other APS schools.
Officer Tanner Tixier said that, at about 8:45 p.m. officers were sent to a business center at 9201 Montgomery NE when callers reported a shooting.
When police arrived, they found Chacho in a car with multiple gunshot wounds to his chest and neck, officer Daren DeAguero said.
In critical condition, he was taken to the hospital, where he underwent surgery.
“The investigation revealed Chacho had been confronted earlier in the day by 46-year-old Craig Cuthbert who believed Chacho was having an affair with his wife,” Tixier said.
After the confrontation, investigators believe Cuthbert texted Chacho asking him to meet so he could apologize, Tixier said.
“When the men met, Cuthbert shot Chacho several times and then fled to the church at 10000 Spain NE where he committed suicide,” Tixier said.
Police found Cuthbert lying on the steps of the church with a gun next to him, DeAguero said.
Chacho, who was hired as a teacher by Albuquerque Public Schools in 1999, joined Manzano in July. He had previously worked as assistant principal at Harrison Middle School and Eldorado High School, and as a principal at Hoover Middle School.
Cuthbert’s wife currently works as an occupational therapist at Eldorado, according to APS spokesman Rigo Chavez.
Veta Martinez said she and her sons grew close to Chacho when he was a principal at Hoover Middle School.
“He really took the school and made it better than the way it was,” she said. “There were less fights, and the kids really looked up to him and respected him.”
When parents worried because there wasn’t a crosswalk on a street in front of the school, Chacho would stand out there every morning and direct traffic so the kids could cross the street safely, Martinez said. She said they were devastated when he left the Hoover.
Cuthbert was not an APS employee, Chavez said, but friends said he was heavily involved in children’s sports. Chuck Swayne said Cuthbert coached his son in Roadrunner Little League and the New Mexico Young American Football League for several years, and was very close to the family.
“He was really community oriented with the kids,” Swayne said. “He did a lot of things he didn’t have to do. Aside from sports, when we would see him at picnics, he was like a calm giant.”
Swayne said when he saw Cuthbert and his wife at games, Cuthbert appeared happy.
Paul Tucker owns a business in the lot at 9201 Montgomery NE, where Chacho was shot.
Tucker said that, shortly after 8 p.m., his employees heard honking from a car that was stopped directly in front of the office, but they didn’t pay much attention.
“My staff member looked out the window and some of the other folks did, too,” Tucker said. “Some time went by, and then somebody went out and discovered there was someone in the car. There was blood everywhere.”
APS Superintendent Luis Valentino offered support for both families on Friday.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Jim Chacho’s family and all the families involved in this terrible tragedy,” Valentino said.
Valentino said APS’s crisis team has joined counselors at the schools involved to provide support.
“They will be at the schools as long as they are needed,” he said.
A Faith Lutheran Church pastor said in a statement that no member of their congregation was in the church building at the time of the shooting.
“The pastors and people of Faith Lutheran Church are deeply saddened by last night’s events,” Senior Pastor Bruce Wilder said. “As people of God, we hold both the Cuthbert and Chacho families in our prayers.”
Church officials wouldn’t say if either Cuthbert or Chacho was a member of their congregation, but Wilde mentioned Cuthbert in his statement.
“At this time, there are no details regarding a funeral service for Mr. Cuthbert,” he said.
Swayne said he was shocked when he heard what Cuthbert had allegedly done.
“We’re always going to wonder what all transpired,” he said.