FARMINGTON, N.M. — An 18-year-old gunman who killed three people and injured six others, including two police officers, used at least three firearms in a rampage through a northwestern New Mexico community, shooting randomly at cars and houses, authorities said Monday.
Officers began receiving reports of gunshots at about 10:57 a.m. in Farmington, New Mexico, a city of more than 45,000 people about 200 miles north of Albuquerque. In a video released late Monday, Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said the gunman fired three weapons, including an AR-style rifle.
The shooting was “honestly one of the most horrific and difficult days that Farmington has ever had as a community,” he said, adding that investigators are searching for a motive for the attack, including talking to the shooter’s family.
“But at this point it appears to be purely random, that there was no schools, no churches and no individuals targeted,” Hebbe said. “During the course of the event, the suspect roamed throughout the neighborhood 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.”
The shooting led to “preventative lockdowns” of the Farmington Municipal Schools at the request of police, the school district said. The lockdowns were lifted Monday afternoon.
San Juan Regional Medical Center, where victims were taken for medical care, was also locked down during the “crisis,” according to statement from the hospital, as an incident command center was put in place to organize the facility’s response.
“We worked closely with law enforcement to ensure the safety of our patients and caregivers,” said Laura Werbner, public relations coordinator for San Juan Regional Medical Center.
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Authorities investigate motive
Deputy Chief Baric Crum said the investigation would continue with a look at the “several blocks of this crime scene to see what actually happened.” Hebbe later confirmed that six homes and three vehicles were shot as the gunman fired at whatever entered his head to shoot at.”
Officers from the Farmington Police Department, San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, and the New Mexico State Police are investigating the shooting. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives tweeted that agents from Phoenix were responding to Farmington to assist in the investigation.
Authorities are asking for anyone with information to come forward.
“What we now need from our community is anybody that has any additional information, whether that be eyewitness information or video information or whatever it may be, if you feel it’s pertinent,” Crum said.
Crum said the investigation would continue with a look at the “several blocks of this crime scene to see what actually happened.”
“We’re grateful for the response we received from our agencies partners in the area,” Crum said.
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Witnesses describe the attack
Hank Shirley who lives near the scene of the shooting, said he was home watching television when he heard a series of gunshots around 11 a.m. which he described as a prolonged gun battle. Shirley said he did not see what happened but rather identified the distinctive pops as gunfire.
“When I heard that, I told my daughter to get down in the basement and get the baby down in the basement,” Shirley told the Farmington Daily Times, part of the USA TODAY Network.
About four minutes after the gunfire ceased, he said he heard sirens and saw emergency vehicles approaching.
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. She appeared to have fallen out of her car, which kept rolling without her, he said.
“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 as neighbors 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.”
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‘No one is immune to the scourge of gun violence’
Monday’s incident in New Mexico is the 225th mass shooting in the U.S. so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, not including the shooter.
In a statement, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Monday 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.”
The governor’s comments echo sentiments previously made by the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety that around 120 Americans are killed with guns and more than 200 are shot and wounded daily.
“Right now in America, it does not matter if you wear a badge or carry a service weapon, no one is immune to the scourge of gun violence,” said Kris Brown, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in a statement Monday. “Americans everywhere must band together and demand sensible solutions to end this preventable epidemic.”
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Contributing: Thao Nguyen, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
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