Talon News - Good Local News

By Jacque Ritchie
TALON 

AZTEC SHOCKED BY SHOOTING

 

December 8, 2017

Jacque Ritchie

A local family takes a private moment to say a prayer near Aztec City Hall, where parents assembled to hear the status of their children.

Aztec NM: Three people are dead as a result of an early morning shooting rampage at Aztec High School. Two students are reportedly victims and the third person is the suspected gunman. On Thursday, December 7, the alleged gunman opened fire in the 900 building of the school just after 8:00 a.m. as students were just settling into first period classes. As news of the shooting spread, worried parents surrounded the campus hoping for information about their children.

Lacy Cross stood on the corner of Chaco and Mesa Verde with tears running down her cheeks. Cross was visibly anxious her voice cracked as she spoke, "My daughter Hailey (16) is in there...she called me and the last thing she said was, 'I love you Mom' she was hiding and very scared, she said, 'they are getting closer'" Since the call Cross had been unable to reach her daughter until they were reunited at McGee Park.

At 3:00 p.m. news conference was held at San Juan County Administration building on Oliver Drive. San Juan County CEO Kim Carpenter opened the press conference and introduced the speakers starting with New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez.

The Governor traveled from Santa Fe to Aztec to address assembled media and spectators and express her condolences and support for the families and the community at large, "We come with a very heavy heart to the community of Aztec, we want you to know that all New Mexicans are standing with you. Our friends and neighbors in Aztec have witnessed a very heinous and horrific act. Children have been killed. I cannot imagine a greater pain than to lose a child." The Governor hoped the tragedy would bring the community together, "What we should do is come together and to unite as a community, for our neighbors, for the children." The Governor said that she had received a condolence call from the White House, and assured the audience that she would make all necessary resources including federal funds available to families and the community, "We are here to help you in any way that we can." The governor also cited, "several acts of bravery by staff members teachers and students, they were amazing they actually saved lives." The Governor went on to praise local law-enforcement calling both Chief Heal and Sheriff Christeson "my heroes." The governor asked for time and patience from the media and the public to allow law-enforcement to conduct a thorough, comprehensive investigation, "Let them sort through the evidence and figure out what took place." The governor said she would attend a candlelight vigil to memorialize those lost at Minium Park on Thursday night.

Sheriff Ken Christeson said, "I was hoping in 28 years I would never have to do this but of course here we are today...We are gonna get through this thing and we are going to try to give you the facts as they become available" Christeson declined to name the victims or the suspected gunman citing the on-going investigation. New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said, "We are responsible for working the crime scene working in conjunction with the FBI...there is alot of things we need to do in association with the investigation." Kassetas praised the quick response of APD and all first responders and law-enforcement agencies involved with the incident and investigation.

Jacque Ritchie

Before being directed to the Aztec Police Department, stunned parents gathered near the high school, waiting for information on their children.

According to Aztec Police Chief Mike Heal, Aztec police officers arrived at the scene in less than one minute, "Their quick response certainly minimized the loss of life." SJCSO, the state police and the FBI all took part in the response. Chief Heal said that there were several, "acts of bravery" by law-enforcement, teachers and students that definitely saved lives.

In a telephone interview with TALON reporter Jessica Selph, Aztec High School custodian Emery Hill described what he witnessed; Hill was on the second floor of the 900 building on his way to replace a blown fuse when he spotted a male subject in the North stairwell wearing sunglasses and a black hoodie carrying a handgun. Hill immediately radioed in to central office triggering the school lock-down as the first shots were heard.

A follow-up news conference is scheduled for December 8. The TALON will provide further information as soon as it becomes available.

 

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