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THURS: Student charged in New Mexico campus shooting is released, MLG comes down with COVID, + More

Alice Fordham

Student charged in New Mexico campus shooting is released - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

A University of New Mexico student was released from jail Wednesday after being accused of plotting with friends to confront a basketball player from a rival university, resulting in the shooting death of one UNM student and the wounding of the player.

A state district judge denied a request by prosecutors to keep Jonathan Smith, 19, in custody pending trial on charges of aggravated battery, conspiracy and tampering with evidence. Smith's attorney has said his client had no previous criminal record and comes from a good home.

Authorities say the plan for revenge on Mike Peake, the New Mexico State University basketball player, followed a brawl at a college football game earlier this fall. The shooting happened just hours before the scheduled tipoff of a basketball game between the two schools, and authorities say Peake was allegedly lured to the UNM campus in Albuquerque early Saturday.

Police identified Brandon Travis as the University of New Mexico student who was fatally shot and accused of planning the assault on Peake, the starting power forward for the Aggies basketball team.

Court documents state that a 17-year-old female UNM student conspired with Smith, Travis and another young man to get Peake on campus. Once there, the men confronted Peake, and Travis shot him in the leg. Peake returned fire, killing Travis. The teen girl is facing conspiracy charges in juvenile court.

University officials confirmed Wednesday that Peake, who is expected to recover, is still a member of the team. While Peake violated curfew rules and the student code of conduct for taking a gun on the team trip, he has not been charged with a crime.

New Mexico State University officials said during a news conference Wednesday that student athletes who were involved in that previous fight were disciplined, and that officials from both schools have been in talks about how to ensure the safety of students and other fans during rivalry games.

"We are taking these events extremely seriously and we are looking at everything we can and should be able to do to avoid these kinds of things in the future," NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu said.

Arvizu was joined by Athletics Director Mario Moccia and Dean of Students Ann Goodman. They all talked about the high expectations for student athletes and the values that are preached by NMSU coaches.

Goodman said the New Mexico rivalry is not unlike many others around the country when it comes to college athletics, and fights that erupt during such games are not always motivated by the rivalry itself but rather something else.

What sparked the fight in October is part of the ongoing investigation. Still, the officials said they have talking with the University of New Mexico about ways to "lower the temperature" so hostility can be avoided during future games between the two schools.

According to data collected by UNM and NMSU authorities, it's rare for weapons to be found on campus.

At New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, officials said there were no arrests involving weapons in 2021, only one in 2020 and three in 2019. There have been 10 cases of weapons found in student housing at UNM in Albuquerque in the last four years, with only two in 2019 leading to an arrest, citation or summons.

Vigil in Albuquerque honors people killed in Colorado Springs at Club Q - By Maddie Pukite, Daily Lobo

The realities of the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs were close to home for many in Albuquerque, and people gathered in Morningside Park on Tuesday evening to grieve the lives lost in the queer bar. Several people knew people at the club on Saturday, Nov. 19, and many at the vigil frequented it themselves.

“I spent all of Sunday in a haze,” said Alex Mirabal, local organizer and burlesque performer. “It felt like a nightmare. It felt like it was unreal. I kept expecting to wake up and be like, ‘Oh, none of this actually happened.’ And then yesterday was a lot of rage … And a lot of ‘It’s time to get active again.’”

After a moment of silence at the vigil, the space was open for anyone to share songs, prayers or words. Mirabal organized the event alongside Judy Lopas, both part of the PFLAG chapter in Albuquerque, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ people and their families.

Mirabel has also headlined at Club Q herself, knows performers in Colorado Springs and had friends who performed at Club Q the day of the shooting.

While everyone Mirabal knew survived, she said she still felt the loss and pain of others, “because there were still five people who were dead. It wasn’t my personal friends, but somebody was missing,” she said. “And that was awful.”

She said she felt the need to be able to grieve with others in her community.

“I knew I needed to be with other queer people. Because straight people love us, and they care about us. But they don’t always know what it feels like firsthand… ,” she said. “So it’s important for us to be together because we understand each other. It’s important to be together because we’re all hurting.”

Bars have long been a heart of the LGBTQ community, a place to take refuge and be authentically yourself without fear of judgment. For many gathered in the park in the cold as the sun went down, Club Q was one of those places. Many said it felt like home, including D’Lite Deleon, the reigning monarch of the Imperial Sovereign Court of New Mexico who had just taken a trip to Club Q.

“My husband and I, we were there with our family last week, and for those of you that didn’t know that, they treated you like that,” Deleon said. “You are always welcome to be with them. They never shy away from you. They always accepted you and welcomed you no matter who you were, what you were doing, what you’re wearing. They were amazing people, and we all know it.”

The gathering to honor those killed at Club Q was held in the same park where every June during Albuquerque’s Pride events, there’s a vigil for LGBTQ people who’ve died. Kuveni Scanlan remembered the heartache of having more names to write each year.

“On this concrete, we write the names of the people that we lost. And every single year, I have a new name to write. Every single year, my list gets longer. And the period of time between the two dates that are right under the name get shorter,” Scanlan said. “I’m sick and tired of 35-year-olds being queer elders.”

The shooting in Colorado happened just before midnight on the eve of the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, a commemoration of hundreds of people killed each year globally.

Tuesday’s vigil for many was also an act of continued queer resistance, a struggle that many emphasized did not end when gay marriage was legalized.

For Miss New Mexico Pride Sativa Rico Stratton, who has many friends who go to Club Q regularly, the shooting was also deeply personal.

“It’s not going to end with Club Q. So we need to make sure that we are out in the community, and we are helping and guiding each other, and that we are supporting our youth, and we are chanting,” Stratton said. “We are teaching them that the fight will never be over. It may get easier, but it’s not going away.”

After deaths like these, Mirabal said the violence does change what runs through her head while performing. She thinks about how to try and keep others and herself safe in such a scenario.

That’s why, she said, it is important to move forward with love: to keep each other safe.

Lujan Grisham positive for COVID-19, not celebrating holiday — Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has tested positive for COVID-19, marking the second time she has gotten the virus.

In a statement, the governor said she was experiencing mild symptoms and was isolating. The governor said she was fully vaccinated and had received the latest COVID-19 booster.

She wasn't taking part in Thanksgiving celebrations with family.

"While testing positive just before the Thanksgiving holiday is disappointing, I know that I am protecting my loved ones by isolating and not joining them for holiday festivities," Lujan Grisham said.

The governor, who tested positive on Wednesday afternoon, had returned on Tuesday from a United Nations climate change conference in Egypt.

Lujan Grisham first tested positive for the virus about three months ago.

National UFO Historical Records Center coming to Albuquerque — Toby Martinez, Roswell Daily Record

A group of historians and archivists have announced plans to open a new national archive in the Albuquerque area focusing on unidentified aerial phenomenon. Led by author and researcher David Marler, the National UFO Historical Records Center will establish the largest historical archive dedicated to the preservation and centralization of UFO/UAP information in the United States.

At a presentation announcing the new archive during International UFO Congress in Phoenix on Oct. 14, Marler said, "What's the importance of all this? Looking at these historical cases, providing context for what we're hearing about today, well, it demonstrates that there's a rich, diverse history of this UFO phenomenon wherever you look, whether it's newspapers, government documents historical archives, etc."

Marler continues, "I was thinking about this a while back, when you look at the UFO subject we have the National UFO Reporting Center, great. And we also have the National Archives, okay, but the one thing we don't have is, you put these two ideas together, there is no National Archives of Ufology despite the need for one."

The archive is set to include official and civilian case files, audio and video recordings, correspondence, photographs, books, magazines, news clippings, research notes, microfilm, along with and digital and physical artifacts. Documents from the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) and J. Allen Hynek's personal Project Blue Book files. It also includes personal collections from researchers Philip Mantle, Antonio Huneeus and Lou Farish, among others.

"I want to postulate this to you: What if we could centralize all the historical data under one roof," Marler said. "What if we could be able to cross-reference all this data to look for patterns, to gain insights, to add to the already growing amount of information and knowledge we have? What if we could scan and make accessible all of this material to the worldwide UFO community and get some really important people looking at this data?"

Marler continues, "Imagine the case files and reports that have never been seen. The audio tapes that have never been heard. The potential discoveries that could lead to answers, potentially, to this mystery. So what am I proposing? The largest gathering of UFO historical U.S collections."

Members of the new organization include Jan Aldrich, Rod Dyke, Barry Greenwood, Dr. Mark Rodeghier and Rob Swiatek. "Many people data mine the internet," Marler said. "I'm here to tell you I would argue only 40 to 50 percent of the data is out on the internet. We still have physical case holdings that need to be digitized. I really look forward to trying to preserve the history and hopefully we'll be here at future events to share that history with you and to help researchers and producers like James Fox."

In a press release, the organization stated, "Our mission is to collect, preserve, and provide historical UFO materials to the general public and interested parties. With the accumulated data, we hope to assist with serious research endeavors and aid in an accurate chronicling of UFO/UAP history for present and future generations regardless of belief or non-belief in the subject."

Efforts are currently underway to find a building for the new non-profit archive. "We want to base it in Albuquerque, New Mexico because of the state affiliation with the subject," Marler said.

New Mexico Investment Council commits record $100M in fund - Associated Press

New Mexico's State Investment Council is pledging $100 million to a tech-focused nonprofit, the council's biggest commitment on record to a single venture fund.

The council gave unanimous approval of the investment Tuesday into America's Frontier Fund, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

America's Frontier Fund, or AFF, is the "first investment platform committed to reinvigorating our nation's innovation and manufacturing prowess in critical frontier technology sectors," according to its website. It combines private and public resources. The technology sectors the fund sees as potentially transformative include microelectronics, artificial intelligence, and new energy.

The money will come from the council's private equity program, which channels funds from New Mexico's Severance Tax Permanent Fund toward venture firms that support local startups.

In a presentation to the council, Gilman Louie, AFF's CEO, said the firm plans to construct a "venture studio" in Albuquerque that could be a national headquarters for satellite studios in and outside of New Mexico. The studio would offer support to major research institutions focused on technology as well as fuel new startups.

AFF's investors, scientists, technologists and policy leaders will scout research into technology that can be brought to consumers through new companies, AFF CEO Gilman Louie told the SIC on Tuesday morning. The Land of Enchantment could be an alternate Silicon Valley, Louie said.

"(Our vision) is to transform New Mexico into a global leader for frontier technology innovation, making New Mexico the center of a vibrant network of venture studios across the U.S.," Louie told the council. " … We believe New Mexico should be a global leader in frontier tech because New Mexico is at the center of many of America's new scientific research discoveries."

Harold Lavender, a council member who leads its investment committee, said AFF and its hands-on leaders stood out.

"I believe it's entirely possible that several viable, investible and potentially very successful companies can emerge from this initiative every year," Lavender told the Journal. "Those are companies that will employ New Mexicans and that will stay here in the state."

Some of the high-profile backers of AFF include ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, former U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and other executives from federal agencies.

New Mexico residents raise environmental justice concerns - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

On the southern edge of New Mexico's largest city is a Hispanic neighborhood that used to be made up of a patchwork of family farms and quiet streets, but industrial development has closed in over the decades, bringing with it pollution.

Neighbors point to regular plumes of smoke and the smell of chemicals wafting through the neighborhood at night, saying contamination has disproportionately affected the area when compared with more affluent neighborhoods in the Albuquerque area.

Now residents have come up with a proposal as they fight for environmental justice, and members of the Mountain View Neighborhood Association, supporters of the nearby Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge and others gathered Monday afternoon to roll it out and to request that Albuquerque and Bernalillo County regulators hold a hearing to consider the measure.

Modeled after regulations in New Jersey and Minnesota, the proposal calls for the region's air quality board to consider a series of health, environmental and equity indicators before approving new permits. It also would establish a path for regular reviews to ensure compliance for businesses that are granted permits in already overburdened areas.

Eric Jantz, an attorney with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, said the fight has been going on for generations.

"This piece of regulation represents a critical shift, a fundamental shift in how environmental health is viewed in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County," he said, noting that pressure is growing in New Mexico and elsewhere for regulators to weigh human health as a determining factor for whether industry gets to do business in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Mountain View already is home to auto salvage yards and Albuquerque's sewage treatment plant. Residents also have been fighting plans for a new asphalt plant.

The issue of environmental justice has been resonating at the state and federal level as some politicians push for tighter regulations. President Joe Biden took office with an ambitious plan to help disadvantaged communities, but activists have been frustrated with the pace of progress.

In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's administration has adopted tougher emissions standards for oil and gas development, and the state Environment Department just announced the creation of an environmental crimes task force.

The governor is fresh off a trip to Egypt for the United Nations' climate conference, where she touted her environmental policies. Still, some environmentalists say the Democratic-led Legislature needs to do more to protect communities that have been overrun by industrial development.

Jantz said the proposal introduced by Mountain View residents could make New Mexico's population center a hub for innovation as companies would be required to find creative ways to do business without harming public health or the environment.

The city of Albuquerque's Environmental Health Department said Tuesday in a statement that its air quality program is committed to environmental justice and that officials look forward to reviewing the measure and working with the community.

Mountain View resident Magdalena Avila has been collecting data about instances of known contamination in her neighborhood and elsewhere in Albuquerque's South Valley.

"There's a long, long history," she said. "And it's just essential that we develop community-based policy initiatives and this is what this is — it's coming up from the community in terms of what we need."

New Mexico's top finance official to retire - Associated Press

Deborah Romero, the head of New Mexico's Department of Finance and Administration, will retire in December, marking the end of a career in state government that has spanned nearly 50 years.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's office announced Romero's upcoming retirement on Tuesday.

Romero has worked for nine different gubernatorial administrations and participated in over 40 legislative sessions. As cabinet secretary, she played a key role in the drafting of state budgets and oversaw the distribution of $1.8 billion in federal funds that included millions of dollars for emergency rental assistance amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Romero also created the state's system for tracking capital outlay funds that are used for local projects.

"There is no question that her decades of work on matters of state finance have left an indelible and undeniably positive mark," Lujan Grisham said in a statement.

Romero said public service is a family tradition and that the last few years of her career have been the most exciting and rewarding.

"I am blessed to be part of an administration that has accomplished so much during a worldwide pandemic, extraordinary fires and flooding, and the challenges of rebuilding a stable and functioning government," she said. "I began as a student intern, and now, to finish as a cabinet secretary is a dream come true."

The governor's office said a national search will be conducted to find Romero's successor.