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TUES: Police say revenge prompted deadly New Mexico campus shooting, + More

UNM shooting memorial tree
Nash Jones
/
KUNM
A tree with crimson and cherry ribbons, representing the team colors of NMSU and UNM, serves as a memorial at the site of a shootout on Nov. 19, 2022, that left a UNM student dead and an NMSU basketball player injured.

Police: Revenge prompted deadly New Mexico campus shooting - Associated Press

Court records show a plot to enact revenge for a fight during a football game last month resulted in a shootout between students from rival universities in New Mexico that left one person dead and a basketball player injured.

A pair of University of New Mexico students face charges of aggravated battery and conspiracy in connection with the plan to lure the New Mexico State University player to campus while he was in town for a game. A criminal complaint filed by state police details what led up to the early Saturday shooting on the Albuquerque campus.

UNM student Brandon Travis, 19, was shot to death near a dorm only hours before the Aggies were scheduled to play the Lobos. The NMSU player, 21-year-old Mike Peake, was shot in the leg during the altercation.

According to court documents, Travis and three fellow students plotted to get back at Peake for his role in a brawl that broke out in the stands during a football game between the two schools in Las Cruces in October. A video of that fight that has circulated on social media showed a number of people throwing punches.

The criminal complaint states that Peake left the team's hotel room early Saturday to meet with one of the students, a 17-year-old girl with whom he had been texting. A friend of Travis, the teen girl is facing charges in juvenile court.

Peake told an investigator he was talking with the girl outside a dorm when three people walked up behind them, including Travis, who pointed a gun to his face. Peake said one man then struck him with a bat.

According to the complaint, Peake said he pushed Travis and that Travis shot at him as he ran away. Peake told investigators that he pulled a gun out of his pocket and fired.

Peake has not been charged with a crime.

Jonathan Smith, 19, one of the students with Travis, told investigators that Peake fired at Travis as he was running away and that Travis fired back. Smith is facing charges of aggravated battery, conspiracy and tampering with evidence for throwing away his cell phone and clothing.

The shooting in Albuquerque happened hours before the scheduled tipoff of a basketball game between the rival schools, which was later postponed.

The shooting came six days after a former University of Virginia football player allegedly killed three Cavaliers football players and wounded two other students on the Charlottesville campus before being arrested.

New Mexico State University officials have said no students are allowed to have any weapons on university property or at university sponsored activities, and that doing so is a violation of the student code of conduct. They noted that players' bags will be searched in the future when they board the bus for road trips.

University officials also said other student athletes violated team curfew rules during the trip to Albuquerque, but those student athletes were not part of the incident.

Gov. Lujan Grisham to hold inauguration on New Year's Day - Associated Press

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will kick off her second term with the new year.

A website launched by her administration devoted to inaugural festivities announced a governor's inaugural ball slated for Jan. 1.

The site includes a countdown clock until inauguration day.

Retired state Rep. Deborah Armstrong and Victor Reyes, the governor's legislative director, have also been announced as the ball's co-chairs.

Lujan Grisham won reelection earlier this month.

She defeated Republican Mark Ronchetti on pledges to safeguard access to abortion and sustain public spending on social safety-net programs.

New Mexico has alternated between Democratic and Republican governors since the early 1980s. An incumbent governor last lost reelection in 1994.

FEMA explores outsourcing much of the $2.5B program for northern NM fire victims - Patrick Lohmann, Source New Mexico

A week before Congress approved spending $2.5 billion to fully compensate victims of botched prescribed burns that grew into New Mexico’s biggest-ever wildfire, the agency in charge of the paying victims started to explore hiring private companies to do a lot of the work.

The “Request for Information” on Sept. 22 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency asks companies whether they would have the capacity to run major aspects of the Hermit’s Peak-Calf Canyon Fire Claims Office. The request calls for a contractor to help in “every step” of developing the claims office, plus creating a claims management website and call center — as well as investigating and recommending damages for victims.

The request also includes more information than FEMA has released publicly about what agency officials predict it will take to stand up a unique office, including who might work there and how many folks they expect could file claims. This is only the second time that FEMA has been tasked with fully compensating victims of a fire or disaster like this. Normally, it pays victims only limited amounts to help them in the immediate aftermath of disasters.

Part of building a brand-new program like this means relying on outsourcing, according to a FEMA spokesperson. The agency doesn’t have much experience with claims processing, apart from its flood insurance program, said Angela Gladwell, a FEMA official and director of the Hermit’s Peak-Calf Canyon Claims Office.

“We’re still working through the details of that. But again, our office is going to be a mix of federal staff, as much hired locally as possible, and contracting staff…” Gladwell told Source New Mexico. “So we’re going to be looking to bring in a lot of the experts that we need to help us, especially with valuation of these different types of losses that you don’t find in a lot of other places.”

The first time FEMA was tasked with fully compensating victims was the Cerro Grande Fire in 2000 in Los Alamos, and much of the new claims office is modeled after that one.

However, FEMA did not outsource much or all of duties under the Cerro Grande Fire Assistance Act, according to a review of federal contract records.

Gladwell said FEMA is anticipating a mix of FEMA employees and contractors to oversee various aspects of the program, though officials said they don’t know exactly what the mix will be yet.

The agency has not yet put any of the claims office contracts out to bid. It’s not clear from government records how much contractors would earn if they win a bid for the claims office.

The Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire emerged from two escaped prescribed burns started by the federal Forest Service earlier this year. It burned more than 530 square miles, mostly in San Miguel and Mora Counties, along with 1,000 structures. After that, floods over scorched soil caused additional, widespread damage.

On Sept. 29, Congress agreed to give FEMA $2.5 billion to spend to make victims whole after the fire, including to replace destroyed homes, pay for lost business revenue, rebuild burned landscape and pay for myriad other losses during the months-long disaster.

According to the “request for information,” FEMA intends to ask a private company to provide up to 70 staff members for two offices the agency will open to help handle claims. That includes 15 claims examiners, 10 customer support specialists, five site inspectors and a team to build and oversee a website. It would also seek two economists, ecologists, data scientists and civil engineers, among other jobs.

Notably, it does not appear to be looking to hire anyone to serve as something like a “navigator,” which members of Congress have called for and said is a reason that fire victims should feel comfortable filing a claim without the help of a private attorney. A “navigator” would advocate on a claimant’s behalf during the process.

FEMA spokesperson Angela Byrd said the agency is currently “mapping the claims process” and could update requirements for contractors before it starts accepting applications to hire them.

“We …continue to gather input from stakeholders and communities to inform that process, as well as final regulations,” she said. “An example of the feedback received is the importance of having navigators and providing multilingual access to materials and services.”

The FEMA document says a contractor should expect that 25% of all calls require Spanish translation. In San Miguel County, where many fire victims live, about 23% of households speak English less than “very well,” according to Census figures. It’s about 13% in Mora County, which also suffered extensive fire damage.

The “request for information” is a way to gauge whether private companies will have the capacity to handle the demands of the new claims office, Byrd said. The agency did not respond to a request for comment about how many companies responded.

FEMA is asking a contractor to develop a system that can hold 30,000 total registrations, including surges of up to 1,000 a day. The call center should be able to handle 50 calls an hour on the first day it’s live. Calls are expected to average 25 minutes, the document states.

“The (Request for Information) was written as an estimate to gauge available contractor support capacity and is not indicative of final claims processing projections,” Byrd said.

The document also asks any contractor to enlist New Mexico firms and hire locals to the maximum extent possible, though it does not appear to require them to do so. The agency will hold events to hire local residents in the coming weeks, officials said. Having New Mexicans in key positions will help ensure the agency understands the particular needs of those recovering from the fire, Byrd said.

FEMA did not respond to why it didn’t impose job requirements, saying only that the document was written to estimate contractor capacity, and that the agency “ understands the importance of integrating local voices and expertise into this office and ultimately the claims process to meet the unique needs of impacted communities.”

A spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, whose district includes the burn scar, referred comment to FEMA, as did U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich’s office.

An aide for U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, who co-sponsored the act approving the $2.5 billion program, said his office is working with FEMA to understand the interim regulations the agency released last week and steps forward.

“We are engaged to ensure that FEMA establishes and carries out the requirements of the bill,” a statement from his office reads. “The senator remains focused on delivering the $2.5 billion in relief he secured for Hermit’s Peak-Calf Canyon Fire victims.”

New Mexico police: Planned attack led to university shooting - Associated Press, Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico investigators say a University of New Mexico student conspired with two other students and a teenage girl to lure a visiting New Mexico State University basketball player onto campus, leading to a shootout that left the UNM student dead and the player wounded.

The investigation into the shooting early Saturday continued Monday, with New Mexico State Police confirming that they arrested and charged the teen with aggravated battery and conspiracy. It was too early to say whether others would face charges.

Police identified Brandon Travis as the University of New Mexico student who was fatally shot and accused of planning the assault on Mike Peake, the starting power forward for the Aggies basketball team. Police have identified the other two students, but their names have not been released.

The shooting in Albuquerque happened hours before the scheduled tipoff of a basketball game between the rival schools, which was later postponed. It was not clear if the game would be rescheduled or if a Dec. 3 matchup in Las Cruces would go on as scheduled.

New Mexico State Police said an altercation between Travis, 19, and Peake led to the shooting. They said Travis had plotted with his friends "to lure the 21-year-old victim to UNM campus and assault him." How and why they initially crossed paths remained unclear.

"Once at the campus, Travis, armed with a firearm, confronted and shot the victim. The victim, who also had a firearm, shot Travis," authorities said in a statement issued Sunday.

The teen girl and Travis' friends fled the scene outside a dormitory at UNM's Albuquerque campus.

Peake was listed in stable condition at a hospital.

New Mexico State University officials confirmed Monday that the player was Peake, a Chicago native who spent most of high school playing in Kansas before signing with Georgia and then transferring to Austin Peay State University. He came to NMSU for the 2021-22 season.

New Mexico State University Chancellor Dan E. Arvizu said in a statement it was important that "no one rush to judgment until all the facts are made available."

The shooting came six days after a former University of Virginia football player allegedly killed three Cavaliers football players and wounded two other students on the Charlottesville campus before being arrested.

New Mexico State University officials said no students are allowed to have any weapons on university property or at university sponsored activities, and that doing so is a violation of the student code of conduct. They noted that players' bags will be searched in the future when they board the bus for road trips.

University officials also said they have become aware of other student athletes who violated team curfew rules during the trip to Albuquerque, but those student athletes were not part of the incident.

After dinner, the team had returned to the hotel and watched video footage from 10:30 to 11:30 p.m. to prepare for the game. Bed checks were done at 11:45 p.m., and officials said all student athletes were in their rooms at that time. An assistant coach was present in the hotel lobby from midnight until 2 a.m., they said.

Draft FEMA rules give Northern NM fire victims only 25% of what their trees were worth - By Patrick Lohmann, Source New Mexico

Those who lost acres of trees to the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire are asking the federal agency that’s overseeing $2-and-a-half billion dollars in aid to change what they say is an improper cap on the amount they can receive for burned trees, which make up a significant number of expected claims.

Source New Mexico’s Patrick Lohmann reports FEMA has published 20 pages of preliminary regulations for how victims of the biggest fire in New Mexico history can receive compensation for their damages from the act.

One of those rules was criticized repeatedly at a meeting in Las Vegas last week, where about 100 people showed up to provide public comment.

The rule would cap the amount paid for trees and landscaping to a quarter of the pre-fire value of the structure and lot.

Trees on private land are essential to many livelihoods in the burn scar – for firewood, Christmas tree sales, and other uses.

Angela Gladwell, the FEMA official in charge of the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak Fire Claims Office, told Source New Mexico that the 25% cap is one of many rules the agency could change before the rules are official.

FEMA is going to hold three more meetings as part of the public comment portion of its rule-making.

Those who lost acres of trees to the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire are asking the federal agency overseeing $2.5 billion in aid to change what they say is an improper cap on the amount they can receive for burned trees, which make up a significant amount of expected claims under the act.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency last week published 20 pages of preliminary regulations for how victims of the biggest fire in state history can receive compensation for their damages.

Congress in late September passed the huge compensation program to pay people who lost property to the wildfire that the federal forest service lit. Two escaped burns that burned more than 530 square miles of land in and around Mora and San Miguel Counties.

One of those rules was criticized repeatedly at a meeting Thursday night in a middle school lecture hall in Las Vegas, N.M., where about 100 people showed up to provide public comment. It would cap the amount paid for “trees and other landscaping to 25% of the pre-fire value of the structure and lot.”

Trees on private land are essential to many livelihoods in the burn scar – for firewood, Christmas tree sales and other uses.

Thousands of acres of private forest land burned when the blaze spilled from federal forests. One woman who spoke, Tina Clayton, said the government should change the rule.

“We should be compensated 100% of what was burned on the property. Trees have value not only in providing wood, but they also clean our air,” she said. “And we haven’t charged the government for that.”

The rule was included as a vestige of a program that the Hermit’s Peak Fire Assistance Act was modeled after. In 2000, Congress passed a law to compensate victims of a botched prescribed burn started by the National Park Service near Los Alamos.

Much of the language in the interim rules is carried directly from that law, even though the destruction and the people impacted are quite different. In Los Alamos, victims were often homeowners and themselves federal employees at national laboratories.

Fire victims this time around are are less well-off, less able to prove damage and ownership of structures lost, and live in more rural areas. There are also far more small farmers and ranchers. There are at least 2,000 farms in Mora and San Miguel Counties, where most of the fire burned, according to recent Census figures.

Angela Gladwell, the FEMA official in charge of the Hermit’s Peak-Calf Canyon Fire Claims Office, told Source New Mexico after the meeting that the 25% cap is one of many rules the agency could change before the rules are official. She also noted that the agency had to publish the draft rules, a process that often takes months, in a very short time-frame, due to the requirements in the law.

“I can’t comment on that (whether the cap will change),” she said. “But I can say that we were working under a statutory deadline of 45 days, so a lot of the baseline of what we issued is based on Cerro Grande. We’re going to consider the comments that we’ve received.”

FEMA officials did not answer any of the questions asked during the public comment meeting, saying that the gathering’s purpose was to hear and take down comments to be considered when the agency revises its rules. Each comment will get a response when the agency publishes its final rules in a couple months, officials said.

FEMA is holding three more meetings as part of the public comment portion of its rule-making.

Final New Mexico county certifies midterm election results - Associated Press

New Mexico's most populous county on Monday certified the results from the recent midterm elections, marking the state's last county to do so ahead of next week's statewide certification.

Bernalillo County commissioners voted during a quick meeting at which they praised the work of the county clerk and her election staff. A report from the county's bureau of elections showed about 54% of registered voters participated, with most of them voting early.

The state's other 32 counties certified their results last week.

The State Board of Canvass will meet Nov. 29 to certify the official results and order any recounts. Unofficial results show at least two legislative races — one for a district in Albuquerque and another in southern New Mexico — appear headed for recounts because the candidates are within 1 percentage point.

Certification of this year's midterm election results has been proceeding smoothly with little controversy across the U.S., with two Arizona counties being exceptions. Fears that talk of election conspiracies would create chaos by officials refusing to validate the will of the voters were mostly calmed as county after county certified their results.

Several rural New Mexico county commissions have faced pressure by some residents to reject certification since the state's primary election in June. In Otero County, where a crisis occurred this summer when commissioners initially denied certification after the primary, the general election results were certified last week with a drama-free unanimous vote.

The New Mexico Secretary of State's Office last week had issued a warning against potential disruptions in the certification process, saying the attorney general would be ready to take "swift legal action" against any attempts to interfere.