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With two UNM students charged after shooting, campus in shock

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Alice Fordham
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KUNM
A memorial invited people to take a crimson ribbon and a cherry-red one, and tie them around crimson and cherry-red flowers, combining the colors of UNM and NMSU.

After a rare incident of gun violence on the University of New Mexico campus this weekend left a UNM student dead and a visiting NMSU athlete injured, the student body is in shock.

Brandon Travis, 19, died in the early hours of Saturday, November 20, outside the Alvarado Hall dorm. State police accuse him of conspiring with a 17-year-old female and two male friends, all UNM students, to lure an athlete from the NMSU basketball team to campus in order to assault him.

Travis shot and injured the athlete, 21-year-old Mike Peake, and Peake returned fire, killing Travis.

The schools had been scheduled to play a rivalry basketball game Saturday night, which has been postponed and not rescheduled.

State police confirmed to KUNM that two students have been arrested and charged.

The Albuquerque Journal reports they are a female who was booked into juvenile detention, and Jonathan Smith, 19. Both have been charged with aggravated battery and conspiracy. Smith is additionally charged with tampering with evidence.

The newspaper cites an arrest warrant affidavit in which Smith told state police that he, Travis and another young man were at an Oct. 15 football game between NMSU and UNM in Las Cruces when they got into a fight, which included Peake. The planned assault was a retaliation.

NMSU posted a list of answers to questions in which the university confirmed that the Dean of Students Office looked into multiple fights on Oct. 15. It also confirmed that several students violated curfew in Albuquerque on November 20, and that bringing a weapon to a university activity, as Mike Peake did, is a violation of university student code of conduct.

NMSU Chancellor Dan E. Arvizu wrote in a November 20 open letter that Peake had been hospitalized.

"Any untimely passing is a tragedy, but it’s especially heartbreaking when it involves students and happens on a university campus," he wrote.

On the UNM campus, students spoke of the shock of the discovery on Saturday morning. Micaela Luna woke up in Alvarado Hall dorm to find it chaotic and surrounded with crime scene tape.

"It was scary," she said. "I didn't know if they were still out there."

She had paused at a small memorial outside the dorm which invited people to take a crimson ribbon and a cherry-red one, and tie them around crimson and cherry-red flowers, combining the colors of UNM and NMSU.

Luna knew Travis. "He was a really good friend," she said. "He was really funny. He always had a smile on his face." The accusations against him shocked her.

Also stopping at the memorial to say a prayer was undergraduate Roman Ubias.

"It's definitely a horrifying sight when you know that when you live in the building, just five seconds away someone else got shot and died," he said.

Ubias is from Colorado, and was saddened and infuriated by other deadly news over the weekend, a shooting at an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs that killed five and left many others injured. He said he felt powerless in the face of what he considered inadequate gun control.

"It's hard to see things when they just keep on piling up and after and after," he said. "And it's hard to see when people don't do anything about it."

Lay pastor Rhonda Newby-Torres at Luther House worked to set up the memorial and a vigil Sunday, offering frightened students hugs.

"So much fear, and sadness and anxiety," she said, adding the incident also highlighted for her the need for greater gun control.

"They have access to guns," she said of the young men involved in the incident. "And it escalated so quickly. And so we have to do something about gun violence. We can't just send our prayers and thoughts to people, we have to act."

UNM student resources

LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center for Academic Accommodations – 505-277-2911

Agora Crisis Center – 505-277-3013

Student Health and Counseling After Hours Line – 505-277-3136 Option 3

SHAC/Dean of Students Case Management Assistance – 505-277-0734

This story has been updated

Alice Fordham joined the news team in 2022 after a career as an international correspondent, reporting for NPR from the Middle East and later Latin America and Europe. She also worked as a podcast producer for The Economist among other outlets, and tries to meld a love of sound and storytelling with solid reporting on the community. She grew up in the U.K. and has a small jar of Marmite in her kitchen for emergencies.
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