ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When security guard Stephen Wills stopped responding to radio chatter early Friday morning, his colleagues knew something was wrong.
“They raced over here on bikes,” said William Albrecht, one of the owners of International Strategic Partners, an Albuquerque security and investigations firm. “He was already unconscious.”
Albuquerque police soon responded to a shooting at the Pearl at Spring Creek apartments on Gibson SE near San Pedro. At around 1:30 a.m. Friday, they found 46-year-old Wills’ body in the parking lot.
Albuquerque police did not release any new details about the fatal shooting on Saturday, including whether any arrests were made.
Albrecht said Wills worked the night shift, patrolling the apartment complex unarmed, on foot from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
The death shook ISP, a company with 45 close-knit employees.
Many of them attended a modest gathering outside of the apartment complex at nightfall Saturday. Joined by dozens of apartment residents, Wills’ colleagues wore black bands over their badges as the group stood in a large circle trading stories about their good-humored, hardworking, honest friend.
“He had a heart bigger than Texas,” one said.
Flowers, prayer candles and balloons sat in a makeshift memorial in the corner of the apartment complex parking lot.
ISP owner Shane Knaub said Wills was the sort of person who would offer to help tenants carry their groceries.
“A peacemaker,” he said. That’s what the firm wants their officers to be: a crime deterrent. And that’s part of what makes Wills’ death so hard for Knaub and Albrecht to cope with.
“This is the absolute bottom,” Albrecht said. “The worst of the worst.”
Albrecht and Knaub said ISP employees know one another’s families. They get together regularly outside of work.
“He was a brother to them,” Knaub said. “They just lost a family member.”
Joey McGovern said he and Wills started working for ISP around the same time, about nine months ago.
“I’m very sad,” McGovern said. “I have a little anger. For somebody to shoot a fellow officer in the back for no reason.”
He said being a security guard has its scary moments, and it’s scary to be reminded that this sort of thing can happen.
“It’s tough right now,” he said.
A police department spokesman described Wills on Friday as a father, Army veteran and dedicated employee. He asked anyone with information on the shooting to contact police at 242-COPS.