Investigators are still struggling to determine a motive for the attack launched by an 18-year-old man armed with at least three guns in a northwestern New Mexico community.
The gunman fired randomly at cars and houses on Monday, killing three people and injuring six others, including two police officers, before he was killed, authorities said.
The shootings occurred around 11 a.m. in Farmington, a city of about 50,000 people near the Four Corners — where New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado meet — that is a supply line and bedroom community to the region’s oil and natural gas industry.
Officers responding to reports of shots being fired encountered the attacker within minutes and killed him with at least one shot, Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said in a video released Monday night.
He said the gunman fired at least three weapons, including an “AR-style rifle.”
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The shooting was “honestly one of the most horrific and difficult days that Farmington has ever had as a community,” he said.
The identities of the gunman and the victims weren’t immediately released.
Officers began receiving reports of gunshots at about 10:57 a.m. The first officer arrived at 11:02 a.m. and three minutes later, the gunman had been killed, Hebbe said.
At first, officers thought there might be a second suspect, and schools were locked down “because we didn’t know where any other suspects could be,” the chief said.
However, it now appears that the 18-year-old acted alone, he said.
One Farmington officer was shot and taken to the hospital, where he was treated and released, while a state police officer was shot and drove himself to the hospital, where he remained and is doing well, Hebbe said. That officer was reported to be in stable condition.
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Joseph Robledo, a 32-year-old tree trimmer, said he rushed home after learning that his wife and 1-year-old daughter had sought shelter in the laundry room when gunshots rang out. A bullet went through his daughter’s window and room without hitting anyone.
Robledo jumped a fence to get in through the back door. Out front, he found an older woman in the street who had been wounded while driving by. He said that she appeared to have fallen out of her car, which kept rolling without her.
“I went out to see because the lady was just lying in the road and to figure just what the heck was going on,” Robledo said. He and others began to administer first aid.
Neighbours directed an arriving police officer toward the suspect.
“We were telling (the officer), ‘He’s down there.’ … The cop just went straight into action,” Robledo said.
Robledo’s own family car was perforated with bullets.
“We’ve been doing yard work all last week. I just thank God that nobody was outside in front,” he said.
“Obviously, elderly people — he didn’t have no sympathy for them. Who’s to say he would have sympathy for a little kid,” he said.
Middle school teacher Nick Akins, whose home is on a street that Police locked down, described the neighbourhood as a mostly great place to live, with a mix of homes, short-term rental apartments and churches.
“It’s not like the roughest area in town, but it can be,” he said. “We have great neighbours and rentals, people who come and go. We don’t always know everyone.”
Seeing Farmington in the national spotlight for yet another mass shooting, particularly one that occurred on his street, was surreal for him.
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“You never think it’s going to happen here, and all of a sudden, in a tiny little town, it comes here,” Akins said.
Hebbe said he was “unbelievably proud” of the officers’ response given the threat of the suspect, who was moving around, and the chaotic scene.
According to an AP News report, authorities received at least nine calls to dispatch “putting the information all over the place, where the suspect was,” he said.
“But at this point, it appears to be purely random, that there were no schools, no churches and no individuals targeted,” Hebbe said. “During the course of the event, the suspect roamed throughout the neighbourhood up to a quarter of a mile. At least six houses and three cars were shot in the course of the event, as the suspect randomly fired at whatever entered his head to shoot at.”
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement that she was praying for the victims’ families and that the incident “serves at yet another reminder of how gun violence destroys lives in our state and our country every single day.”
Mayor Nate Duckett said in a statement that the shooting “has left us reeling in anguish and disbelief.”
At Hills Church, just a few miles from the attack scene, dozens of people gathered around a tall metal cross as the sun set Monday to pray. Some wrapped their arms around each other as they listened. The mayor and law enforcement officers were among those in the crowd.
Lead pastor Matt Mizell talked about living in a “dark and broken world” but told the crowd that there was still hope and asked God to provide them strength.