HOR­ROR IN AZTEC

TWO STU­DENTS AND GUN­MAN SLAIN AT HIGH SCHOOL

Albuquerque Journal - - FRONT PAGE - BY ELISE KA­PLAN AND MATTHEW REISEN JOUR­NAL STAFF WRIT­ERS

AZTEC — Two stu­dents were killed when a gun­man opened fire dur­ing first pe­riod at Aztec High School in north­west­ern New Mex­ico on Thurs­day morn­ing, au­thor­i­ties say.

The sus­pected gun­man is also dead, ac­cord­ing to San Juan County Sher­iff Ken Chris­te­sen, al­though he would not say whether he was a stu­dent at the school.

Au­thor­i­ties late Thurs­day iden­ti­fied the vic­tims as Casey Mar­quez and Fran­cisco Fer­nan­dez, but they didn’t give their ages.

Chris­te­sen said the sus­pect was male, but did not re­lease his name or age.

Au­thor­i­ties have not said whether the sus­pect knew Mar­quez and Fer­nan­dez, why he shot them, or what

he was armed with. They also would not say whether the sus­pect killed him­self or was killed.

“We’re go­ing to be pro­cess­ing the crime scene at the school through the night and prob­a­bly into the next day,” New Mex­ico State Po­lice Chief Pete Kas­se­tas told a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day af­ter­noon. “Then we’ll be con­duct­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion from the in­ter­view stand­point and re-creating ex­actly what hap­pened.”

Heads of sev­eral state and lo­cal law en­force­ment agen­cies spoke at the news con­fer­ence, as did Gov. Su­sana Martinez.

“In the face of evil in the com­mu­nity of Aztec, we will stand with you, and we ask that you stand with us as well,” she said.

Martinez said of­fi­cials from the White House had called her to ex­press their con­do­lences and of­fer fed­eral re­sources.

Au­thor­i­ties added fold­ing chairs to ac­com­mo­date ev­ery­one who at­tended the news con­fer­ence to hear the up­dates, in­clud­ing more than a dozen shaken par­ents and youths.

One high school stu­dent who at­tended was Au­tumn Petersen, 17, who was with her mother.

Petersen said she was still in shock af­ter she and her class­mates spent al­most an hour hid­ing in a stor­age closet af­ter the shoot­ing started.

She said she was in his­tory class around 8 a.m. when she and her class­mates heard what sounded like some­one bang­ing on lock­ers in the hall­way. They soon re­al­ized the sound was gun­shots and heard more than 20 rounds fired.

“I was re­ally scared,” Petersen said. “Like, ‘This is re­ally hap­pen­ing at our school.’ ”

Dur­ing the lock­down, she said, many stu­dents were cry­ing and tex­ting their par­ents.

“Through­out the whole process, we heard a bunch of gun­shots,” Petersen said. “I never thought this would ever hap­pen to us, es­pe­cially since it’s such a small com­mu­nity.”

When the lock­down was lifted and stu­dents were al­lowed to leave the class­room, Petersen said, they were told to keep their eyes fo­cused straight ahead.

“They told us not to look to the right,” she said. “I did … there was a body bag right out­side our door.”

Dur­ing the or­deal, the teenager and her mother, An­gela Hobbs, texted back and forth.

“I told her to hide be­hind some­thing,” Hobbs said.

The two were re­united just af­ter noon at McGee Park in Farmington, join­ing hun­dreds of other par­ents and stu­dents.

Aztec Po­lice Chief Mike Heal said the first 911 calls about the shoot­ing came into dis­patch shortly af­ter 8 a.m. and four of­fi­cers im­me­di­ately headed to the school, with two of­fi­cers get­ting there in about a minute.

“I am so thank­ful for the men and women in the Aztec Po­lice Depart­ment,” Heal said. “They re­sponded in less than a minute to get there and help se­cure the scene and do what they needed to do. I think they helped save lives to­day.”

Heal said he and a cou­ple of the of­fi­cers had to climb in through a win­dow be­cause the school was on lock­down.

Re­ports cir­cu­lated early about mul­ti­ple in­juries in ad­di­tion to the three who were dead, but State Po­lice Chief Kas­se­tas re­it­er­ated that those were false and no one else was in­jured. He also said that there is no ev­i­dence of threats to other schools and that there are no other sus­pects.

The San Juan County Sher­iff’s Of­fice is now lead­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, with help from State Po­lice and the FBI in pro­cess­ing the crime scene.

Thurs­day af­ter­noon, a group drove a truck to the scene and of­fered hot co­coa and cof­fee to po­lice and com­mu­nity mem­bers.

Thoughts and prayers poured into the small town through­out the day from politi­cians and com­mu­nity lead­ers.

At the Capi­tol in Santa Fe, mem­bers of the Leg­isla­tive Fi­nance Com­mit­tee in a morn­ing meet­ing ob­served a mo­ment of si­lence as word cir­cu­lated of the school shoot­ing. And when the Aztec High School bas­ket­ball team didn’t at­tend a tour­na­ment at Al­bu­querque Academy on Thurs­day even­ing, the bas­ket­ball play­ers and spec­ta­tors bowed their heads and fell silent in light of the tragedy.

Aztec High School is one of two high schools in Aztec, a town with a pop­u­la­tion of about 6,000 in north­west­ern New Mex­ico near Farmington and Bloom­field. It is the San Juan County seat of gov­ern­ment.

Su­per­in­ten­dent Kirk Car­pen­ter said all the schools in the Aztec Mu­nic­i­pal Schools District will be closed to­day.

“This isn’t some­thing that will just af­fect those stu­dents,” Car­pen­ter said. “Aztec is a small com­mu­nity. We shut down main street for homecoming. We want to make sure we ad­dress the needs of ev­ery fam­ily.”

He said the teach­ers, staff and stu­dents had prac­ticed drills on what to do in case of a shoot­ing.

“It’s at times like this you feel vi­o­lated be­cause of the way schools are set up — they’re sup­posed to be where we send our kids to stay safe,” Car­pen­ter said. “And they still are safe places, but some­times evil in­trudes on it.”

MARLA BROSE/JOUR­NAL

Hun­dreds gath­ered at a candlelight vigil in honor of the vic­tims of a shoot­ing at Aztec High School on Thurs­day morn­ing that left three dead, in­clud­ing the sus­pected shooter.

MARLA BROSE/JOUR­NAL

Sharon Ulibarri, sec­ond from left, holds hands with Mon­ica Va­len­cia dur­ing a news con­fer­ence about the shoot­ing at Aztec High School on Thurs­day morn­ing that left two stu­dents and the sus­pected gun­man dead.

The school shoot­ing scene is in­ves­ti­gated by law en­force­ment of­fi­cers, in­clud­ing the FBI, af­ter two stu­dents were killed by gun­fire Thurs­day morn­ing.

Law en­force­ment of­fi­cials, left to right, Aztec Po­lice Chief Mike Heal, San Juan County Sher­iff Ken Chris­te­sen, and State Po­lice Chief Pete Kas­se­tas ap­pear at a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day af­ter the shoot­ing.

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