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FRI: Police release body/dash cam videos of Farmington shooting, + More

Investigators work along a residential street following a deadly shooting Monday, May 15, 2023, in Farmington, N.M. Authorities said an 18-year-old opened fire in the northwestern New Mexico community, killing multiple people and injuring others, before law enforcement fatally shot the suspect. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
Susan Montoya Bryan/AP
Investigators work along a residential street following a deadly shooting Monday, May 15, 2023, in Farmington, N.M. Authorities said an 18-year-old opened fire in the northwestern New Mexico community, killing multiple people and injuring others, before law enforcement fatally shot the suspect. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

Videos, 911 calls capture frantic response to deadly New Mexico rampage — Susan Montoya Bryan, Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Hundreds of frantic calls poured in to dispatchers about a barrage of gunfire and bloodied victims along a busy street during this month's deadly shooting in Farmington, prompting authorities to rush to the chaotic scene not knowing what was in store.

Breathless with guns drawn, officers rushed toward the gunman. More shots popped off, and an officer yelled, "Subject down! Cease fire, cease fire!" Another officer who had been shot in the leg was put in a patrol car and taken to a nearby hospital.

The minutes that followed were a scramble as authorities searched the neighborhood for a possible second shooter, while other officers huddled to figure out how far the crime scene stretched and which vehicles had been hit by gunfire.

Hours of police body and dash camera videos released Friday along with hundreds of dispatch recordings paint a vivid picture of the May 15 shooting that rocked the northwestern New Mexico community. Three women were killed and six other people were injured — all at the hands of a lone 18-year-old gunman who was killed by officers.

The 911 calls convey the widening chaos as residents called in the location of bullet-pocked vehicles, including an abandoned car with a door flung open and shattered windshield. Others helped a woman struck by flying glass inside her car.

"A lady is in the car. And it looks like there was a bullet that went through the windshield and she's bleeding bad," one caller told an emergency dispatcher.

As officers gathered on a street corner, they tried to make sense of what they were hearing from dispatchers and witnesses and take stock of their colleagues and the victims who had been taken to the hospital. Deputy Chief Baric Crum asked if it was a traffic stop that went bad.

"No, just shots fired," Detective Christopher Stanton replied. "People started calling in, 'Hey, we're getting multiple shots down here — 30, 40 rounds, and then they just started pouring in."

He talked about the woman believed to be the first victim. A bullet broke through her windshield as she drove down a street lined by homes and churches. Shards flew and there was more gunfire, and she pulled down a side street not knowing where it was coming from.

Meanwhile dispatchers were juggling 911 calls in rapid succession, coaxing details from rattled callers with quavering voices.

"There's a lady here, she's bleeding right now," one caller said to a dispatcher, who provided first aid instructions.

Another call came from inside a home: "We heard screaming and crying," the woman said.

In another 911 audio recording, labeled "Suspects Mother," a woman said her son had been suffering from depression and worried he might be involved in the shooting. The woman's identity could not be immediately confirmed.

"I'm just concerned. I have a son that's been very, very depressed and I'm driving over and just wondering if you could give me any information. You know, he might be just fine. He's just been really depressed and I was really concerned."

Authorities have said the shooter, Beau Wilson, 18, discharged more than 190 rounds during the rampage, most of them from the home he shared with his father.

Video released Friday showed officers entering the suspect's home to clear it, guns drawn, shouting, "Farmington police!"

Family photos lined the wall to the right of the entrance, with a framed cross in the middle. Casings littered the front porch, where authorities said the gunman had walked outside that morning and indiscriminately started shooting at passing vehicles.

Left dead were Farmington residents Gwendolyn Dean Schofield, 97, her 73-year-old daughter, Melody Ivie, and 79-year-old Shirley Voita, police said.

The audio recordings included an anguished call from a daughter of Ivie after word reached her in Salt Lake City that her mother and grandmother were killed.

"They were shot and killed this morning, potentially on their way to pick up my nephew from school, and I don't know if there's anything at all that you might be able to tell me," Julianne Hamblin said.

Audio conversations also indicated the large scale of the police response, including the coordination of an aircraft to possibly bring in more police. Some off-duty officers were called in, and others cut short calls across town to rush to the scene.


Associated Press journalists Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada, and Rio Yamat and Ty O'Neil in Las Vegas, Nevada, contributed to this report.

Judge says fire retardant drops are polluting streams but allows use to continue — Matthew Brown, Associated Press

The U.S. government can keep using chemical retardant dropped from aircraft to fight wildfires, despite finding that the practice pollutes streams in western states in violation of federal law, a judge ruled Friday.

Halting the use of the red slurry material could have resulted in greater environmental damage from wildfires, said U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen in Missoula, Montana.

The judge agreed with U.S. Forest Service officials who said dropping retardant into areas with waterways was sometimes necessary to protect lives and property.

The ruling came after came after environmentalists sued following revelations that the Forest Service dropped retardant into waterways hundreds of times over the past decade.

Government officials say chemical fire retardant can be crucial to slowing the advance of dangerous blazes. Wildfires across North America have grown bigger and more destructive over the past two decades as climate change warms the planet.

More than 200 loads of retardant got into waterways over the past decade. Federal officials say those situations usually occurred by mistake and in less than 1% of the thousands of loads annually.

A coalition that includes Paradise, California — where a 2018 blaze killed 85 people and destroyed the town — had said a court ruling that stopped the use of retardant would have put lives, homes and forests at risk.

"This case was very personal for us," Paradise Mayor Greg Bolin said. "Our brave firefighters need every tool in the toolbox to protect human lives and property against wildfires, and today's ruling ensures we have a fighting chance this fire season."

State and local agencies lean heavily on the U.S. Forest Service to help fight fires, many of which originate or include federal land.

Fire retardant is a specialized mixture of water and chemicals including inorganic fertilizers or salts. It's designed to alter the way fire burns, making blazes less intense and slowing their advance.

That can give firefighters time to steer flames away from inhabited areas and in extreme situations to evacuate people from danger.

"Retardant lasts and even works if it's dry," said Scott Upton, a former region chief and air attack group supervisor for California's state fire agency. "Water is only so good because it dries out. It does very well to suppress fires, but it won't last."

The Oregon-based group Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics argued in its lawsuit filed last year that the Forest Service was disregarding the Act by continuing to use retardant without taking adequate precautions to protect streams and rivers.

Christensen said stopping the use of fire retardant would "conceivably result in greater harm from wildfires — including to human life and property and to the environment." The judge said his ruling was limited to 10 western states where members of the plaintiff's group alleged harm from pollution into waterways that they use.

After the lawsuit was filed the Forest Service applied to the Environmental Protection Agency for a permit that would allow it to continue using retardant without breaking the law. The process could take several years.

Such a permit could require tighter restrictions on when retardant could be used or for officials to use less-toxic chemicals, said Andy Stahl with Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics.

"It's certainly a good first step," Stahl said.

Christensen ordered federal officials to report every six months on their progress.

Forest Service spokesperson Wade Muehlhof said the agency believes retardant can be used "without compromising public health and the environment."

"The Forest Service is working diligently with the Environmental Protection Agency on a general permit for aerially delivered retardant that will allow us to continue using wildfire retardant to protect homes and communities," Muehlhof said.

Climate change, people moving into fire-prone areas, and overgrown forests are creating more catastrophic megafires that are harder to fight.

Almost 150 million gallons (567 million liters) of fire retardant were dropped on National Forest lands between 2013 and 2022, according to the Department of Agriculture. Retardant drops onto forests in California accounted for 49% of the total volume.

Health risks to firefighters or other people who come into contact with fire retardant are considered low, according to a 2021 risk assessment.

But the chemicals can be harmful to some fish, frogs, crustaceans and other aquatic species. A government study found misapplied retardant could adversely affect dozens of imperiled species, including crawfish, spotted owls and fish such as shiners and suckers.

Forest Service officials said they are trying to come into compliance with the law by getting a pollution permit but that could take years.

To keep streams from getting polluted, officials in recent years have avoided drops inside buffer zones within 300 feet (92 meters) of waterways. Retardant may only be applied inside those zones when human life or public safety is threatened. Of 213 instances of fire retardant landing in water between 2012 and 2019, 190 were accidents and the remainder were necessary to save lives or property, officials said.

Many areas of the Western U.S. experienced heavy snowfalls this past winter, and as a result fire dangers are lower than in recent years across much of the region.

UFC champion Jon Jones lifts spirits of Albuquerque teen over yearbook taunt — Associated Press

A New Mexico teen who was the target of a cruel yearbook insult over his love of mixed martial arts fighting is getting a boost from former UFC champion Jon Jones.

KRQE-TV reported Thursday that 14-year-old Rayce Garcia was excited to get his yearbook.

But the graduating eighth-grader turned to a page where predictions are made about every student. He saw it said Garcia would grow up to be "a homeless UFC Champion."

The boy's father called the principal of McKinley Middle School. Ray Garcia says his son got bullied after they complained.

That's when the boy's coach at a local MMA gym arranged for Jones to film an encouraging message.

"It's crazy that you're 14 years old and people already know that you're going to be a UFC champion," Jones said in the video. "It's really special man, make that come true."

Albuquerque Public Schools officials told the TV station the matter is being investigated.

Federal grants no longer enough to fully connect Native communities to high-speed internet - Megan Gleason, Source New Mexico 

SANTA CLARA PUEBLO - While the sun beamed down on old adobe houses outside on Wednesday, a group of tribal and federal officials gathered inside to analyze a mostly red map detailing a lack of good internet access across Santa Clara Pueblo.

Work is in progress to change that.

Last year, Santa Clara Pueblo was one of what’s now over 140 tribal entities awarded a grant by the federal government to set up broadband — reliable, high-speed internet. The Pueblo got just over $9 million to install fiber internet in 600 households, a stark change to come for the communities that have historically gone without good internet access.

Alan Davidson, federal assistant secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, visited Santa Clara Pueblo on Wednesday to check in on how the broadband project is going. Tribal officials guided him through the lengthy process to get everyone connected.

Daniel Tafoya is the director of special projects and safety management at Santa Clara Pueblo. He said the federal $9 million grant is likely not enough to get the fiber job done anymore.

Tafoya said officials estimated that number would be enough money before the pandemic hit, but now inflation has raised costs.

“Those numbers are completely out the door at this point,” he said.

A man in a red shirt sits at a table and talks.

Tafoya said the Pueblo doesn’t know how much the project will add up to until a fiber broadband design is completed. He said officials are still in the contracting phase right now and will hopefully move into the process to get federal environmental approval soon.

The federal secretary didn’t promise more funds but said other federal agencies have grant programs that could help. Davidson said his agency wants to work with Santa Clara Pueblo to ensure the entire community gets solutions.

“It’s going to take us years to be able to connect everybody, but we know how important it is,” Davidson said. “And we are here to say we’re your partners in continuing this.”

There have been a few issues already in the fiber design process. Tafoya explained there’s a lot of private land checkerboarded throughout Santa Clara Pueblo, which complicates setting up broadband lines.

“It’s very hard for us to get from point A to point B and sometimes,” Tafoya said.

He said Santa Clara is also trying to fend off companies that could come in to set up internet services for Pueblo members. He said the Pueblo wants to do this on its own.

“We want to provide to our own community and provide this service to our tribal members,” he said.

Davidson questioned if the Pueblo has enough workers to set this up without outside help. He said he’s heard a lot of other communities struggling to get enough people to build the networks.

Tafoya said that could be an issue, especially since the need for broadband came up suddenly when the pandemic hit. This work requires a specific technical skill set that not many people have, he added

“I think we’re all facing some worker shortages, somewhere, somehow,” he said.

He said the Pueblo is trying to take advantage of trainings happening elsewhere, so members can learn how to do broadband work at places like community colleges and bring that knowledge back to Santa Clara.

James Naranjo is the lieutenant governor of Santa Clara Pueblo. He said the Pueblo has to compete with higher wages on offer in surrounding wealthier communities like Santa Fe and Los Alamos.

“We’re a self-governing tribe, so we’re trying to manage our own way,” he said.

If the Pueblo can get workers in the broadband field, Davidson said, there will be a high demand soon as other tribal communities and states, including New Mexico, get more federal money to set up broadband. The federal government is supposed to announce more grants this summer.

“You’re at the leading edge of this in many ways,” he said.

More roadblocks extend beyond the northern New Mexico Pueblo. Tafoya said the federal reporting requirements officials have to adhere to for things like project progress and financial updates have been strenuous and time-consuming.

“We get that some of these things do need to be reported, but it does take up quite a bit of time,” he said.

Tafoya said the importance of setting up this broadband extends beyond just internet services. For example, he said, Pueblo officials want to set up emergency communication equipment needed by first responders.

“We want to make sure that we maximize our capabilities with the money that you all provide to us,” he said.

Davidson said he’s heard other grant recipients also mention a desire to set up public safety communications, and he’s glad Santa Clara is being smart about leveraging the grant funds to get multiple things done.


SAN ILDEFONSO PUEBLO — Just a dozen miles away, under the shade of a large tree while ants crawled at its base, Davidson also talked with officials from San Ildefonso Pueblo, another grant recipient.

San Ildefonso Pueblo got nearly $5 million in federal funds to set up high-speed internet for 255 tribal households.

John Gonzales is the tribal administrator. He pointed at a building not far from where he stood with Davidson under the shade of the big tree and explained it’s called pueblo-style architecture, often older buildings made from adobe.

Gonzales said the goal is to get good internet set up in these older households.

“It’s going to be very valuable,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Lawrence Pena, director for planning and economic development, said the biggest obstacle for San Ildefonso now is how much costs have risen, similar to what Santa Clara is facing.

“You have personnel costs that are double, triple,” he said. “Engineering costs which are probably triple and quadruple at this point.”

Supply chain issues could slow things down, he added. Gonzales said getting the right resources and technical assistance has been difficult, and contractors are scarce.

Pena said Santa Clara is in the process of getting federal environmental clearances and hopes to get on-the-ground work started in late September, faster than when San Ildefonso could get things moving.

While this planning stage is still going on, Davidson said it’s a good opportunity to prepare by training tribal members in the field of broadband.

“The best thing would be if these networks are all being built by the communities that they serve,” he said.

Gonzales said maybe the Pueblo could tap into the highly educated workforce nearby at Los Alamos, and Davidson said it’s probably easier than that.

“You don’t need a Ph.D. to be a fiber slicer or to help build these networks,” Davidson said.

The San Ildefonso officials shared some of the same concerns that Santa Clara had, though, that wealthier neighboring communities could steal workers with better pay than the Pueblo can afford to provide. Gonzales said that’s an issue.

“But hopefully we’ll get our own people trained,” he said.

APS board approves almost $2.2B budget - Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Public Schools board approved an almost $2.2 billion budget this week, a 12% increase over last year’s budget.

As the Albuquerque Journal reports, the overall budget a year ago was close to 1.95 billion––though, Superintendent Scott Elder told the newspaper substantial cuts were made in the past and this new budget gives “a great feeling.”

The money will go to things like federal grants, capital funding and other spending.

When broken down, the biggest portion of cash will go to the district’s operational fund––totaling a whopping $990 million, and the district plans to spend over $928 million in operational dollars.

This increase in spending comes amid a declining student enrollment within APS. In the 2012-2013 school year, APS reported about 87,300 students. Last year, that number went down to 70,400.

Virgin Galactic completes final test flight before launching paying customers to space - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Virgin Galactic completed what is expected to be its final test flight Thursday before taking paying customers on brief trips to space, marking what the space tourism company described as a "fantastic achievement" in what has been a long road to commercial operations.

Six of the company's employees, including two pilots, landed at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico after the short up-and-down flight that included a few minutes of weightlessness. It took about an hour for the mother ship to carry the spaceplane to an altitude of 44,500 feet (13,563 meters), where it was released and fired its rocket motor to make the final push.

"Successful boost, WE HAVE REACHED SPACE!" Virgin Galactic tweeted.

It reached an altitude of 54.2 miles (87 kilometers) before gliding back down to the runway, according to the company.

Jamila Gilbert, who grew up in southern New Mexico and leads the company's internal communications, was among those on board who were evaluating what it will be like for paying customers.

It was hard for her to put the experience into words, saying it probably will take a lifetime to process the sights and the feelings that filled those moments between the rocket igniting and the spaceship reaching its highest point.

"It was just this magnetic pull," she said in an interview. "Once I started looking out, I could feel that I was floating. I could hear voices. But I couldn't stop looking at the planet, and I couldn't look away."

Fellow crew member Christopher Huie said it seems as if everything stopped when the spaceship was released from the carrier plane.

"You're just waiting for the rocket to light," said Huie, an aerospace engineer. "And I think that moment had so much anticipation, and I could have lived in that moment forever."

Then came a little jostle with the firing of the rocket, and the crew were pinned to their seats as the G-forces kicked in.

The flight came nearly two years after founder Richard Branson beat fellow billionaire and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and rocket company Blue Origin into space. Bezos ended up flying nine days later from West Texas, and Blue Origin has since launched several passenger trips. Federal aviation authorities banned Virgin Galactic launches after Branson's flight to investigate a mishap.

Virgin Galactic has been working for more than a decade to send paying passengers on short space hops and in 2021 finally won the federal government's approval.

The next step will be for Virgin Galactic to analyze data from Thursday's flight and inspect the planes and other equipment as the company prepares for commercial service, possibly as soon as late June.

Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier has acknowledged the delays and missed deadlines over the years. But on Thursday, he said seeing the crew's reactions after landing gave him confidence in what the company has built so far.

The initial commercial flight will include members of the Italian Air Force who will conduct experiments. Next will come customers who purchased tickets years ago for their chance at weightlessness aboard a winged spacecraft that launches from the belly of an airplane.

About 800 tickets have been sold over the past decade, with the initial batch going for $200,000 each. Tickets now cost $450,000 per person.

Virgin Galactic has reached space five times since 2018 and will be aiming for 400 flights per year from Spaceport America once it finishes building its next class of rocket-powered planes at a facility in neighboring Arizona.

After Branson's trip, the Federal Aviation Administration grounded flights as it investigated a problem that caused the rocket ship to veer off course during its descent back to its runway in the New Mexico desert. Virgin Galactic insisted at the time that Branson and others were never in any danger.

The company made changes to its carrier airplane and the spaceplane. The delay was nearly twice as long as expected, partly because of supply chain issues and labor shortages.

Branson joined a group of customers who watched Thursday's flight from Spaceport America.

Huie, a senior manager with Virgin Galactic's flight sciences engineering team, said the company is ready for commercial service and will be expanding its fleet over the coming years.

"We're looking to scale up in a big way," he said, "and the goal is to populate lots of spaceports with lots of spaceships and motherships and send hundreds of people every year to space."

Officials urge caution as people head for the water over the holiday weekendAlbuquerque Journal

As we head into the Memorial Day weekend, officials around the state are anticipating large crowds at lakes brimming with water, and they are warning people to be cautious.

The Albuquerque Journalreports water levels are very high because of unusually large snowfall levels this year.

That translates to submerged picnic tables at Cochiti Lake and levels at Abiquiu Lake of 226 feet, up from 195 feet a year ago.

State Parks officials anticipate large crowds of people taking to the water over the long weekend and warn that high lake levels can hide debris or other things just under the surface. Wearing a life jacket is crucial.

Yesterday the Albuquerque Police Department and Albuquerque Fire Rescue rescued two kayakers from the swollen Rio Grande. One was stuck by a fallen tree, and with the rapid river flow it made the rescue more challenging for responders.

Opponents to Edgewood anti-abortion ordinance gather enough signatures for a public vote Santa Fe New Mexican

An anti-abortion ordinance in Edgewood will now go to a public vote after a successful petition drive by residents opposed to the measure.

The Santa Fe New Mexicanreports organizers gathered over 400 signatures and submitted the petition to the County Clerk on Wednesday. Edgewood commissioners passed the ordinance on April 26 after hours of debate.

Under state statute, if petitioners get at least 20% of the average number of registered voters who cast ballots in the most recent municipal election within 90 days of an ordinance passing, they can then petition for a special election.

Edgewood is following the cities of Clovis, Hobbs and Eunice, as well as Roosevelt and Lea Counties, in passing ordinances that cite federal law to restrict access to abortion, although the procedure remains legal in New Mexico.

However, Edgewood is the first place to pass such an ordinance since the governor signed House Bill 7 into law, which explicitly prohibits public bodies from interfering with access to reproductive healthcare.