SAT: Police say 4th Muslim killed in Albuquerque over past 9 months, New details emerge on New Mexico helicopter crash, + More
Police say 4th Muslim killed in Albuquerque over past 9 months – Associated Press
Police say the killing of a Muslim man on Friday night in Albuquerque may be linked to the ambush shooting deaths of three Muslim men over the past nine months in New Mexico's biggest city.
Police said Saturday that the victim in the latest killing was a Muslim from South Asia who is believed to be in his mid-20s. The man, whose identity hasn't yet been confirmed by investigators, was found dead after police received a call of a shooting.
Earlier this week, police confirmed that local detectives and federal law enforcement officers were looking for possible ties among the separate crimes. Two of the men — Muhammed Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41 — were killed in the past week, and both were from Pakistan and members of the same mosque. The third case involves the November killing of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, a Muslim man of South Asian descent.
"There is reason to believe this death is related to those shootings," Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said during a news conference Saturday.
Police declined to say whether the killing on Friday night was carried out in a way similar to the other deaths.
Authorities say they can't say yet if the shootings were hate crimes until they have identified a suspect and can determine a motive.
The killings came as Albuquerque is on pace for another record-setting year of homicides.
"Our community has been devastated, as you can imagine," said Ahmad Assed, the president of Islamic Center of New Mexico. "We have never gone through anything like this before. This is really a surreal time for us."
A $15,000 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest.
Report details wreckage of fatal New Mexico helicopter crash – By Associated Press
Federal transportation authorities said Friday that a helicopter returning home from a firefighting mission made a rapid descent without making any turns before plowing into the ground last month, killing the four first responders onboard.
Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board released their preliminary report, noting that two witnesses on a ridge about half a mile away were observing the sunset when they saw the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office helicopter go down in the hills near the northern New Mexico community of Las Vegas.
It could take a year or more to make a final determination on the cause of the July 16 crash. It marked the single deadliest incident for law enforcement in state history and one of the deadliest for first responders.
The preliminary report detailed the crash scene, noting that the main wreckage was found upside down about 160 feet (48 meters) beyond the area where the helicopter first crashed. One main rotor blade had minimal damage and the other blade was fractured, with the broken part found nearby.
One of the four people onboard managed to call 911 before succumbing to his injuries, according to emergency dispatch recordings. That call to San Miguel County dispatchers sparked a frantic search.
A rancher who also called 911 said she saw dust when the helicopter hit the ground but no smoke or flames.
In emergency dispatch recordings, it was reported that gas was leaking from the aircraft, which the crew fully refueled for the trip home to Albuquerque.
They had spent a few hours that afternoon dropping buckets of water on a wildfire burning on private land near Las Vegas.
The crew included Bernalillo County Undersheriff Larry Koren, Lt. Fred Beers, Deputy Michael Levison and Bernalillo County Fire Rescue Specialist Matthew King. During memorial services over the last two weeks, the men were remembered as heroes for always being ready to serve beyond their jurisdiction.
Koren, 55, was a veteran pilot who had been with the the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office for more than two decades. He was part of a New Year's Day mission to rescue employees and a tram operator who got stuck while descending in the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway.
Beers, 51, also helped with that winter rescue and had been with the sheriff's office for 13 years. Levison, 30, had been with the sheriff's office since 2017 and had served in the New Mexico Air National Guard.
The recordings show King, 44, a husband and father of two children, was the one who dialed 911. Mortally wounded, he stayed on the line for more than a half hour trying to direct first responders to the crash site. Efforts by the state police officers who were first on the scene to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.
New Mexico authorities investigate killings of 3 Muslim men – By Associated Press
Police in New Mexico's largest city are trying to determine if the ambush shooting deaths of three Muslim men over the past nine months could be connected.
Albuquerque police have confirmed that local detectives and federal law enforcement officers are looking for possible ties among the separate crimes. Two of the men — Muhammed Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41 — were killed in the past week, and both were from Pakistan and members of the same mosque. The third case involves the November killing of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, a Muslim man of South Asian descent.
Deputy Police Commander Kyle Hartsock wouldn't share specifics, but he said the commonality among the victims is race and religion.
"We are taking this very seriously. We want the public's help in identifying this cowardly individual," Hartsock said during a news conference Thursday in front of the Islamic Center of New Mexico.
The governor, Albuquerque's mayor and civil rights groups have raised concerns, saying violence against members of the community based on race or religion will not be tolerated.
Hartsock reiterated that authorities can't say yet if the shootings were hate crimes until they have identified a suspect and can determine a motive.
The killings came as Albuquerque is on pace for another record-setting year of homicides.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations on Friday offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the shooting deaths. The council is the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.
"If a bias-motive is determined, state and federal authorities should apply appropriate hate crime charges," said Nihad Awad, the director of the national group.
The two most recent killings were in southeast Albuquerque. Ahmadi was killed behind the market and cafe he owned with his brother.
"In all three cases, the victims were ambushed with no warning, fired on and killed," Hartsock said.
Ahmad Assed, the president of Islamic Center of New Mexico, said he didn't believe the three victims knew one another, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
"The community certainly is in need of understanding the egregiousness of the conduct displayed in all three of theses shootings," Assed said at a news conference. "If it's true that we were targeted as Muslims, then they need to be very vigilant in protecting themselves and taking measures of precaution. They need to watch out for their surroundings."
SUV barrels through Native American parade; 15 injured – By Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press
A New Mexico man who was driving drunk without a valid license barreled through a parade that celebrates Native American culture in the western part of the state, injuring at least 15 people, officials said Friday.
Jeff Irving, 33, was arrested late Thursday and faces charges that include aggravated driving while intoxicated, fleeing from officers and injuring parade-goers and two Gallup police officers who tried to stop the vehicle, court documents said.
In a statement, New Mexico State Police said that investigators have no reason to suspect the crime was motivated by hate. No one was killed. The people who were hurt, including the police officers, suffered mostly minor injuries, said New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and his family were among those almost hit as the Chevrolet Tahoe drove through the parade route. The vehicle sped through downtown Gallup about 15 minutes after the nighttime parade started that served as the kick-off event for the 10-day Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial Centennial Celebration.
Irving's blood-alcohol content was three times the legal limit for driving, according to court records. His license had been revoked or suspended for another drunken driving charge and the SUV had no registration or insurance, police said.
Court records didn't list an attorney for Irving who could speak on his behalf. His two passengers were detained and taken to a detox center in Gallup, a city of about 22,000 people, state police said in the statement.
Many among the crowd of thousands lining the parade route in front of businesses that sell Native American jewelry, arts and crafts captured the chaotic scene on video.
As the SUV sped near the parade, videos on social media showed people yelling for others to get out of the way and some pushing parade-goers to safety. One video showed parade-goers yelling obscenities at the SUV's driver and passengers while they were handcuffed on the ground.
Children performing traditional dances appear to have been among the first to have seen the SUV heading toward them, the videos showed. They ran to the side amid screams and others scrambling to get out of the way.
The images also showed blankets, shoes, banners and umbrellas left strewn along the street and on the sidewalks as people fled.
Lujan Grisham said Friday that the state will send additional police officers and a behavioral heath crisis team to Gallup for the rest of the ceremonial event.
Nez said the vehicle was coming at him and a group of tribal officials marching in the parade. He thanked people for taking quick action to get spectators and participants out of harm's way.
"We just ask for your prayers for all of the participants," Nez said in a video posted on social media. "We're all shook up. You would see this on television, you would think it would never happen here. I'm sorry to say it happened here in Gallup, New Mexico."
Tonya Jim said she went to the parade with her parents, grandchildren and children. Her 5-year-old granddaughter, KaRiah, was picked from the crowd to join a group of dancers. Shortly after, the vehicle barreled down the parade route, turned and hit a man across from them who was sitting on a folding chair, she said. KaRiah was helped off the road by someone and was not hurt.
"I'm glad whoever was holding her hand just kept holding her hand and ran with her to get her off the road," Jim said. "I'm not sure who she was, but I'm thankful for her."
Jim said the family burned cedar and prayed when they got home and did a tobacco smoke prayer Friday morning to calm down.
"I blessed my kids and thanked the creator they are still with me and (to) pray for the families who are hurt," said Jim, who is Navajo and lives in Fort Defiance.
During the mayhem, the SUV swerved onto a side street and pulled into a parking spot before trying to pull out again. It hit a parked car and backed into a police car, state police said. Officers converged on the vehicle and detained the driver and two passengers who Irving identified as his brothers, according to court documents.
Irving initially told police he was not drinking before admitting to having at least a couple of beers, according to court documents. He is from the small community of Pinedale and faces 21 charges, the documents and police said.
City, state and tribal officials met Friday, with some urging more resources to address alcohol abuse. The state has long had a driving while impaired rate above the U.S. national average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"I think there's always room for improvement," said Gallup police Capt. Erin Toadlena-Pablo. "I don't think anyone should ever look at it and say we're doing all we can. There's always other means."
The nighttime parade is a highlight of the ceremonial celebration, which was founded in 1922 as a way for traders to showcase the culture and art of Native American tribes in the region, said Gallup Intertribal Indian Ceremonial Association board President Kyle Tom.
A daytime parade will go on as planned on Aug. 13, the day before closing events, Tom said. Other events include dances, rodeos and a juried art show.
People travel to Gallup from the vast Navajo Nation that extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah and from other tribal reservations to attend the parades and events. Nez, tribal lawmakers and others expressed anger and disbelief over what happened.
"It's supposed to be a celebration, but today it was a difficult time for us," Nez said.
Tear gas grenade thrown by Bernalillo County deputy caused deadly house fire, investigators say – By Austin Fisher, Source New Mexico
The only possible cause of the fire that killed Brett Rosenau, 15, last month was a grenade thrown by a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputy who was a member of the SWAT team that July night, local fire officials said Friday.
The Fire/Arson Investigation Division of Albuquerque Fire Rescue ruled the fire an accident, and discussed preliminary findings during a news conference on Friday.
It is extremely likely that the fire was caused by a Tri-Chamber Flameless Grenade thrown through a front window of the house, said Jason Ramirez, captain of the fire/arson investigation division.
The grenade emits CS gas, commonly known as tear gas.
“So at this time, the classification of that fire is ruled accidental, and we were unable to eliminate that device being an ignition source,” Ramirez told reporters on Friday. “All other ignition sources in the room were eliminated at this point. So that’s where we’re at in the investigation. At this point in our investigation, there is no other possibility in that room of origin, in that area.”
The grenade landed on a mattress behind the window, said Albuquerque Police Commander Kyle Hartsock. Hartsock displayed a video showing the grenade smoking, and the mattress catching fire. The video shows police using a robot to pull the flaming mattress out of the house, but at that point the fire had spread.
Firefighters delayed entering the building because, Albuquerque Police Chief Medina has said, there were concerns Kelley was armed, and he was still inside. It remains unclear if police actually found any weapons on Kelley or in the home.
After Kelley surrendered, firefighters searched the house and found Rosenau’s body inside, Hartsock said.