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FRI: 1 Dead In Shooting At ABQ Middle School, Santa Fe Is NM's Fastest Growing City, + More

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Shooting At Albuquerque School Kills 1; Student Detained –Associated Press

New Mexico authorities said one student was killed and another was taken into custody following a shooting at a middle school near downtown Albuquerque during the lunch hour Friday.

Police described the shooting as an isolated incident between the two Washington Middle School students, who were believed to be about 13 years old. The school was locked down and parents were asked to pick up their children.

Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock said a school resource officer ran toward the two boys after the gunfire erupted and was able to prevent any other violence from happening.

Hartsock said investigators were trying to determine how the student obtained the gun and what may have prompted the shooting. He said other students will be interviewed as detectives try to piece together what happened.

Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Scott Elder called it a terrible day for the school district and for the whole community.

Friday marked the third day of classes for Albuquerque's public school district.

Albuquerque is on pace to shatter its homicide record this year, having already matched within the first eight months of the year the previous annual high of 80 homicides set in 2019.

798 New COVID-19 Cases And 5 More Deaths Announced - KUNM News

The New Mexico Department of Health Friday announced another in a string of COVID-19 infection figures that has been on the rise in recent weeks.

There were 798 new coronavirus infections bringing the total to almost 219,000 for the state since the pandemic began.

There were also five more COVID-19 related deaths bringing the state total to 4,446.  Three of the latest deaths were in Bernalillo County and two were in Eddy County. Only two of the five had underlying conditions.

There are currently 296 individuals hospitalized for COVID-19 in New Mexico.

The health department says every New Mexican must work together to stem the spread of COVID-19 and asks that people wear masks when in public and around others.

San Juan County Detention Officer Charged With Inmate Sex – Associated Press

A detention officer at the jail in San Juan County has been arrested and charged with multiple counts of having sexual contact with an inmate and with bringing contraband into the jail.

The county sheriff's office said Friday that it was called to investigate after an inmate at the adult detention center in Farmington reported that 23-year-old Kendall Frank Begay had sexual contact with an inmate.

Detectives interviewed two inmates and Begay and determined he had sexual contact with a female inmate six times. He also allegedly brought contraband into the jail twice in exchange for money.

Begay was arrested Tuesday and charged with six felony counts of having sexual contact with an inmate by a person in authority. He also faces two felony charges of bring contraband into the jail.

Records show Begay had an initial court appearance on Wednesday but did not enter a plea to the charges. There is no attorney listed in online records who could comment on his behalf.

Jail administrator Daniel Webb said Begay is no longer employed as a detention officer.

Special Public Enrollment To Close For Health Insurance – Associated Press

A special enrollment period for health insurance on the state exchange is coming to a close on Sunday.

Federal pandemic relief is providing financial assistance with health care insurance premiums for New Mexico residents with moderate incomes or living on the cusp of poverty.

Low- or zero-premium policies area available to the currently uninsured as well as enrolled exchange members who re-enroll by the Sunday deadline.

Exchange spokesman James Korenchen says that a 40-year-old with an annual salary of $40,000 can pay as little as $108 a month for insurance coverage, and a family of four earning $90,000 can save $2,500 over the course of a year.

Open enrollment typically takes place only in November and December at the insurance exchange known as beWellnm. There are five insurance carriers that offer coverage in every county in the state.

More than 40,000 residents of New Mexico rely on the marketplace for health insurance, with the promise of federal subsidies for consumers with low and moderate incomes who make too much to qualify for Medicaid.

The exchange is moving as soon as next year from a federal technology platform to a state-based system.

Fundraising Walk Draws Attention On Navajo Nation – Noel Lyn Smith, Farmington Daily Times, Associated Press

A California man, wearing a bear suit of his own creation, has captured the attention of Navajo Nation residents as his cross-country walk to heighten awareness and raise money for five causes traverses tribal land.

Meet Bearsun, a Japanese anime-style teddy bear created by Jessy Larios, who is using the character to spotlight various charities that center on mental health, autism, cancer, disabled community and the environment.

Bearsun is tan with a cream-colored belly, red cheeks and rounded tail, ears and arms. Larios, 33, has worn the suit throughout his walk.

So far, his walk from Los Angeles to New York City has generated donations but his presence in communities on the Navajo Nation has delighted tribal members and residents.

They've taken to social media to follow his official accounts and to share their photos, videos and encounters.

“I decided to create his persona in the real world, as to what other animators do when they create a story. They usually write it on paper first,” Larios said in an interview last week with the Farmington Daily Times at Veterans Memorial Park in Window Rock, Arizona.

“This is my paper — the world. It’s a giant piece of canvas. This is how I’m writing this story for Bearsun,” he added.

After his initial plan to follow the path of historic Route 66 was hampered because it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along interstate highways, he retooled his path and followed an eastward course that has taken him through several communities on the Arizona portion of the Navajo Nation.

Larios was less than two miles away from entering New Mexico when he wrote on the Bearsun Instagram account that the character “decided to spit me out” for a personal day on Aug. 7, keeping him in the tribal capital.

When he resumed walking Aug. 8, he entered New Mexico at about 8 a.m.

He said the walk across the Navajo Nation has been “amazing” and a “learning experience.”

Tribal members have lined up for hours to meet him at stops along the way and have presented him with items like a pair of moccasins and a T-shirt that displayed the Navajo language.

He sported the moccasins from the western side of the reservation to Window Rock and he wore a hole in the left sole.

As Larios completed the miles, he heard personal stories about adversity, resilience and hope from tribal members.

“A lot of emotions,” he said adding several stories center on post-traumatic stress disorder, especially from older men.

“Sometimes I think it’s hard for them to talk about it because they have to be the strong ones, but it’s nice to hear them, talk with them,” Larios said. “Even if someone looks tough, they still have something inside, so don’t judge them. Don’t make them feel like they have to be tough. It’s OK to talk about it.”

That point of view was one reason Steven Thompson, from Fort Defiance, Arizona, wanted to meet Larios during a small gathering at the Window Rock formation.

“It’s good because people don’t talk enough about mental health,” Thompson said. “It’s extremely important and a lot of people are not able to speak out loud about it and this puts it out there.”

He added that Bearsun has brought together the Navajo Nation, especially after a difficult year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It brought us all together, weirdly enough. A guy in a bear suit, walking across the country brought Natives together, Navajos together. It’s pretty amazing,” Thompson said.

Phoenix resident Janice Taliman is part of an impromptu group of walkers who joined Larios in Greasewood, Arizona.

They have helped him stay safe as he moves along roads that have narrow shoulders and coordinated meals and places for him to stay — otherwise he uses the tent he carries with him.

Taliman, who is originally from Cornfields, Arizona, has a son who is about the same age as Larios and if her son embarked on a journey like Larios, she would want people to respond in the same manner.

“As a mother, that’s what you want for your child. I told him in Navajo, ‘you’re my yázhí, so I want to make sure that you’re OK,’” she said.

Yázhí is a term of endearment in the Navajo language and means “little one,” according to the website, Navajo Word of the Day.

“He’s inspired me,” Taliman said.

NM State Police Arrest Fugitive Who Pointed Gun At Officers – Associated Press

New Mexico State Police on Friday said a man wanted for pointing a gun an officer during an encounter in June has been arrested.

State police said they were working with police in Espanola to arrest the man on June 14 in connection with a recent stabbing when he got out of a vehicle and pointed a gun at a state police officer. The officer fired at the man but he ran away and escaped.

State police and officers from the Espanola police followed numerous tips over the summer as they searched for the 37-year-old resident of Chamita. He was finally located Wednesday inside a home in La Mesilla and arrested without incident after a standoff.

He faces multiple charges for pointing the gun at the officer and earlier incidents that include kidnapping and domestic assault.

Santa Fe Propels Urbanization Trend In New Mexico - Associated Press

Among four major cities in New Mexico, the state capital of Santa Fe was the fastest growing over the past decade.

The Census Bureau on Thursday released a trove of demographic data on how the U.S. population changed between 2010 and 2020.

The data show that Santa Fe grew by 19,558 people to a population of nearly 88,000, not including outlying areas. That represents a 29% population increase.

By comparison, Albuquerque grew by less than 4%. It expanded by 18,707 residents to reach a population of roughly 565,000.

Both Las Cruces and Rio Rancho grew at fast clips.

Las Cruces, located 50 miles north of El Paso, Texas, grew by 14% to a population of about 111,000.

Just north of Albuquerque, Rio Rancho grew by 19% to roughly 104,000.

New Mexico mimicked national trends in becoming more urban. The state's under-18 population shrank. And the state's housing supply grew faster than its population.

Public Health Emergency Orders On Navajo Nation For COVID-19 -  Associated Press

Navajo Nation officials say the tribe will return to "Orange Status" starting Monday due to a recent rise of COVID-19 cases.

On Thursday, the Navajo Department of Health issued three new public health emergency orders for businesses and schools while revising in-person gathering limits for certain events.

The tribe's mask mandate remains in effect, but there is no daily curfew or lockdown on the reservation that is the country's largest at 27,000 square miles and covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The 50% maximum occupancy level remains in place for restaurants (including indoor dining, drive-thru, curbside and outdoor dining) plus tribal casinos, hotels, campgrounds and RV parks.

"The difference between this time last year and the uprise in cases we are seeing now is that we have a high percentage of our people vaccinated and our public health experts have provided us with the guidance to reduce the spread of the virus," Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said. 

Health officials reported no deaths and only a handful of cases for eight consecutive days from Aug. 1-8.

But on Monday, the Navajo Department of Health issued a health advisory notice for 19 communities due to uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus.

The tribe reported 39 new COVID-19 cases and no additional deaths on Thursday after having 49 new cases and two deaths reported Wednesday. 

The latest numbers pushed the totals to 31,754 cases on the reservation since the pandemic began more than a year ago with 1,386 known deaths.

New Mexico Taps US  Pandemic Relief To Help Harvest Chile - Associated Press

New Mexico will use federal relief funds to boost wages among chile pickers and processors to $19.50 an hour in an effort to ensure adequate labor.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham released new details Thursday of the state's strategy to ensure a complete harvest of its most iconic crop. 

The administration announced last week that it would funnel up to $5 million in federal pandemic relief to shore up the harvest of New Mexico's renowned green and red chile crop. Harvest typically takes place in late summer and early fall, arriving a few weeks early this year as farmers increase reliance on seedlings to jumpstart the crop.

"It is an all-important symbol of New Mexican agriculture and commerce," Lujan Grisham said in a statement. "I will do everything in my power to support the industry in their efforts to harvest and process a successful 2021 crop."

The wage subsidies are through chile growers, labor contractors and processors.

Chile is a roughly $50 million annual cash crop for New Mexico farmers that would ideally employ about 3,000 people at farms and processing plants during the harvest, according to the New Mexico Chile Association.

Some Republican state legislators want the state to cut off a $300 weekly federal supplement to unemployment benefits in hopes of increasing the farm-labor supply. 

Lujan Grisham says agricultural labor shortages are a persistent industry issue in New Mexico and beyond. She is running for reelection in 2022.

US Agency To Join With New Mexico On Air Pollution Study - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is joining forces with New Mexico regulators and a private company to study air pollution and climate change.

Officials announced the partnership with New Mexico-based Sceye Inc. on Thursday. They said they are still working on the specifics of the endeavor, how much it will cost and how it will be funded.

The five-year study will use high-altitude blimp-like platforms positioned in the stratosphere above New Mexico to monitor air quality and emissions from the oil and gas industry and other sources. 

"Until now, atmospheric science was based on a network of ground air quality monitors with some additional information we would get from airplanes and satellites. Not anymore," said New Mexico Environment Secretary James Kenney. 

Parking Sceye's airships in the stratosphere — about 12 miles (19 kilometers) up — for a longer period of time will result in unprecedented environmental data that can be used to develop more accurate atmospheric maps that look at greenhouse gases, particulate matter, ground-level ozone and other pollutants and how they are transported. 

Officials said they hope that leads to better solutions for regional air quality problems.

Once a memorandum of understanding is in place, the EPA and Sceye can enter into a public-private cooperative research and development agreement. That will determine how the data is shared. 

EPA officials said the effort will build upon previous collaborations with NASA to help advance knowledge on the use of high-altitude measurements for monitoring emissions and concentrations on the ground.

Kenney noted that New Mexico has only seven air quality inspectors for more than 60,000 oil and gas wells in the state.

"So ensuring compliance remotely, in this case from the stratosphere, is absolutely game changing for us," he said.

The study is expected to begin next year.

New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said the partnership has been in the works for about a year and that aside from producing data, it marks an important investment in science as the state looks to diversify its economy.

New Mexico Denies Landowners' Push To Restrict Stream Access - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

New Mexico regulators have rejected the requests of landowners who sought to restrict public access to streams and rivers that flow through their properties, marking just the latest development in a legal battle that likely won't end until the state Supreme Court weighs in.

The state Game Commission voted on Thursday to deny the applications, citing language in the state Constitution that implies all waters in New Mexico belong to the public.

The decision was welcomed by outdoor groups and conservationists. However, an attorney for the landowners argued that his clients' private property rights were being violated.

While the debate over stream access has been ongoing across the West for years, the New Mexico Supreme Court could provide more clarity once it rules on a pending petition filed by a coalition of anglers, rafters and conservationists.

The coalition contends that the public has the constitutional right to fish, boat or use any stream for recreation so long as they did not trespass across private land to get there.

Some of those who addressed the commission Thursday pointed to previous opinions from the state attorney general's office and a 1945 ruling by the state Supreme Court that found holding title to stream-bed property does not limit the right of the public to "enjoy the uses of public waters."

Advocates of private property rights have warned that if waterways are opened up, property values will decline and there would be less interest by owners to invest in conserving tracts of land along streams. Some fishing outfitters and guides have said their business will be adversely affected.

Marco Gonzales, who represents the landowners, said the case involves the intertwining of constitutional property rights and public rights to the water. He said state lawmakers struck a balance several years ago by codifying the need for written permission from a landowner.

Gonzales argued that one constitutional right can't supersede another and that the question before the commission was narrowly focused on whether the stream segments in question were navigable at the time New Mexico became a state in 1912.

Those who have fought to keep access open have argued that the Game Commission doesn't have the authority to determine whether a stream or river was navigable.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat, is among those who say public access should not be limited, regardless of whether streams are classified as non-navigable. Many waterways in New Mexico and elsewhere in the Southwest flow intermittently and depend on snow or storm runoff.

Heinrich commended the commission for its decision.

"Accessing public streams for fishing, boating and other activities has long been enjoyed by generations of New Mexicans and is part of our state's culture and thriving outdoor recreation economy," Heinrich said.

The landowners will file appeals in district court, Gonzales said. He noted that an earlier federal court ruling that ordered the commissioners to act on the landowners' applications made clear that waiting for the New Mexico Supreme Court to act was not a justified legal reason upon which to base their decision.

"That was blatantly disregarded by the commission," he said.

New Mexico Defends Title As Most Latino State In Nation - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

New Mexico has retained its title as the nation's most heavily Hispanic state, with 47.7% of respondents to the 2020 census identifying ancestry linked to Latin America and other Spanish-speaking areas.

The Census Bureau on Thursday released new demographic details culled from the census.

California and Texas were close runners up, with about 39% of residents claiming Latino or Hispanic heritage. Nearly 31% of Arizona residents describe themselves as Hispanic.

In New Mexico, Latino pride runs deep within a region of the U.S. where Spanish conquerors arrived in the late 1500s and Mexico governed for decades during the 19th century. The state is currently led by its third consecutive Hispanic governor.

The new numbers on ethnicity and race have implications for the political redistricting process as states redraw congressional and legislative districts later this year with an eye toward preserving communities of common interest. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits plans that intentionally or inadvertently discriminate on the basis of race by diluting the minority vote.

The share of New Mexico resident who identify themselves as Indigenous by race or by combined ancestry was 12.4%. Alaska was the most predominantly Native American state, followed by Oklahoma and then New Mexico.

An earlier set of data released in April showed New Mexico's population grew by 2.8% over the past decade, making it one of the slowest growing states in the U.S. West, adding about 58,000 residents to a population over just over 2.1 million.

In the West, only Wyoming had a slower growth rate. The U.S. had 331 million residents last year, a 7.4% increase from 2010.

New Mexico has convened a Citizen Redistricting Committee led by former state Supreme Court Justice Edward Chávez.

The committee is holding public input meetings across the state as it drafts proposed district maps. Those will be delivered to the Legislature, which meets later this year to send a redistricting plan to Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for consideration.

Lawmakers adopt the recommendations or devise their own plan.

Jets' Hermanns Living NFL Dream After Near-Death Staph Scare - By Dennis Waszak Jr. AP  Pro Football Writer

Grant Hermanns knew something was seriously wrong with his body. 

The rapid weight loss. The dangerously high fevers. The overwhelming fatigue.

They were all ominous signs, but no one could figure out what was ailing the offensive lineman. Hermanns and his family were stumped, and so were his doctors.

"Really, I was fighting for my life," Hermanns said in an interview with The Associated Press after a recent practice with the New York Jets. 

The 23-year-old undrafted rookie out of Purdue is getting a chance to live out his NFL dream, working in training camp at both tackle spots as well as guard for the Jets. Hermanns is driven to succeed, motivated by having overcome a life-threatening staph infection that ravaged his body just a few years ago.

"It's pretty amazing," Hermanns said. "I always say it's by God's grace, man, that I even have my life today and I'm here with this opportunity."

Hermanns was in his senior year at Rio Rancho High School in New Mexico in the summer of 2015. He and his parents were traveling to various football combine workouts, trying to improve his prospects of getting recruited by a Division I team. The Albuquerque native was running the 40-yard dash at a Nike Elite event in Ohio when he suffered a hip avulsion fracture — an injury in which a tendon or ligament pulls off a piece of bone.

Hermanns, who somehow finished the combine, needed several weeks to heal before he started his senior football season and played in six games.

"But then I started getting these weird fevers," he recalled. "I would be at 104 degrees just randomly or I'd go all the way down to 94, a sub-fever. And it would happen all the time, like every other day. I'd be falling asleep in class, just covered in sweat. My parents didn't know what was going on and they took me to the doctor multiple times. The doctor said, 'You're fine, nothing's wrong.' They tested my white cell count and they couldn't find anything."

The 6-foot-5 lineman was losing weight at an alarming rate, though, dropping from 265 pounds to 190 in just a few months.

"I looked like a basketball player and I played offensive tackle," said Hermanns, who's now 6-7 and 300 pounds.

His mother Kelli took him to a physical therapist to try to find answers — and the breakthrough came when Hermanns was told to lie on the table. His left hip was raised significantly higher than his right, and the therapist asked him to walk.

"They were like, 'Oh, that's not right. You should not be walking like an old man,'" Hermanns recalled.

He went to football practice the next day, used the bathroom and thought he was urinating blood. It turned out — he would later be told — it was liver enzymes leaving his body.

"My liver and some of my internal organs were starting to break down because of the sickness inside of me," Hermanns said.

His mother rushed him to the emergency room, where doctors retraced the previous few months to try to determine what was happening. 

They ordered an MRI — and there it was.

"It was a cyst," Hermanns said, "the size of a pomegranate."

Doctors would later tell Hermanns and his family they believe the staph infection might have entered his body through a cut while playing football. It somehow settled into the hip area and began attacking his body over the next several months. 

"They still tell me today there's like a one in a million chance of that happening, and I just got the unlucky bullet." he said. "But I believe everything happens for a reason. And it's definitely made me who I am today."

With the mystery finally solved, he had surgery the next morning. 

"The doctor said when they cut me open, the cyst just exploded out of my hip," Hermanns said. "It was like a geyser right out of my hip."

Surgeons said if Hermanns had been a few years older, the infection might have been fatal; younger patients may be able to better tolerate such a severe case.

Hermanns temporarily lost feeling in his left foot and part of his left leg, and still has numbness in a spot on the leg from nerve damage caused by the cyst. He had to learn how to walk again, and found motivation in an unlikely source.

"My goal each day was to beat the old woman that was walking around the wing," he said with a laugh. "So I had to get on my little walker and practice walking and just get back to it."

Step by step, Hermanns gradually got closer to normal. Football season was over, so he focused on finishing his wrestling season.

"If you know Grant," his mother said in a phone interview, "and you know his power of will — and it's not willpower with him, it's power of will — and his ability to focus on something if he really wants it, there's just no doubt that's what he's going to do."

So he trained, regained weight and got back on the mat. Just a few months removed from nearly losing his life, Hermanns was in the New Mexico Class 6A heavyweight state championship.

And won.

"Grant is such an amazing person," Kelli said while choking back tears. "He's really, truly a gift. ... I am so grateful for him every day. He teaches me all the time how to be a better person."

Purdue gave Hermanns a football scholarship and he redshirted his first season before earning a starting job at left tackle, becoming a mainstay for the Boilermakers for four years. The team co-captain and industrial management major was a member of the Academic All-Big Ten team four times.

Hermanns is used to overcoming odds and serving as an inspiration. Now he's with the Jets, eager to do it again while making his mark in the NFL.

"I feel I got a second chance at life because I did almost perish at a young age," Hermanns said. "It kind of opened my family's eyes up, and mine, that all the time we have together is so precious for every one of us. You have to spend it very well and very wisely because it could be gone in an instant."

Free Tuition This Spring For Some Students At Tribal College - Associated Press

A four-year tribal college located on the Navajo Nation is offering free tuition for the spring 2022 semester to all students who are enrolled full-time this fall and receive at least a 2.0 grade point average.

Classes begin Aug. 16 for the fall semester at Diné College, which is offering 361 online courses and 37 in-person courses. 

The school also is offering a 50% tuition discount and a 50% residential discount for student housing for the fall semester. 

The admission application fee, technology fee and student activity fees are all waived. 

Diné College — which has six campuses and two microsites across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah — primarily serves Navajo students and offers 20 bachelor's degrees, 16 associate degrees and six certificate programs. 

Diné College was the first tribal college when it opened in 1968.