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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Victoria Bekiempis

New Mexico shooter roamed area with at least three guns, police say

A vigil for the victims outside the church in Farmington.
A vigil for the victims outside the church in Farmington. Photograph: Jon Austria/Albuquerque Journal/Zuma/Shutterstock

An 18-year-old man who stalked a New Mexico neighborhood, fatally shooting three people on Monday, armed himself with at least three guns, one of which was the style of powerful rifle used during many mass shootings, officials said, renewing calls for legislation to combat gun violence.

The attack, which also left six people injured, came as the US is poised to see its worst year in recent history for mass killings.

Police named the three dead victims as 97-year-old Gwendolyn Schofield, her 73-year-old daughter, Melody Ivie, and 79-year-old Shirley Voita.

The deadly shooting erupted about 11am local time in Farmington, a city of about 50,000. “The suspect roamed throughout the neighborhood, up to a quarter of a mile,” Farmington’s police chief, Steve Hebbe, said.

Authorities also named the shooter as local 18-year-old high school student Beau Wilson, but added they were still trying to determine a motive for the attack. Wilson lived in the Farmington neighborhood where he opened fire.

Farmington’s deputy police chief, Kyle Dowdy, said there was nothing yet leading investigators to believe Wilson knew any of the people he shot. “We’re pretty confident in that is was completely random,” he said.

Wilson legally purchased at least one of the guns he used in November.

Witnesses and police say Wilson walked through the neighborhood spraying bullets until police arrived within minutes and fatally shot him. Two police officers were among the wounded, and were treated and released from the hospital.

“The amount of violence and brutality that these people faced is unconscionable to me,” Dowdy said.

The gunman shot at least six houses and three cars during the attack. Authorities said the gunman did not target any particular location – such as a school or church – nor people during the shooting.

Among the dead was Voita, a 79-year-old woman who had worked as a nurse and was a devoted parishioner at Sacred Heart Catholic church, said former state lawmaker James Strickler, who was her friend.

“She was just a dynamite lady. She was well-loved, and I’m still shocked over it,” said Strickler, who heard gunfire on Monday before learning the circumstances of Voita’s death.

Some of the shootings were captured on video that was uploaded to TikTok, which police confirmed was authentic.

The footage shows a man clad in black clothes pacing near a driveway outside the First Church of Christ, Scientist, with an apparent handgun. Later, the footage shows him being shot by police.

Neighborhood resident Joseph Robledo, 32, hurried home after hearing that his wife and one-year-old daughter hid in their laundry room during the gunfire. A bullet went through his baby’s room and its window, but did not strike anyone.

An older woman was in the street in front of his house. She had been shot while driving by and appeared to have fallen out of her vehicle, which kept going without her, Robledo 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 reportedly said. As he and others provided first aid, neighbors told a police officer where the shooter was.

The middle-school teacher Nick Atkins, who lives on a street locked down by police, said the neighborhood is largely calm. “You never think it’s going to happen here, and all of a sudden, in a tiny little town, it comes here,” Atkins reportedly said.

After the shooting, New Mexico’s congressional delegation issued a statement that read: “One thing is clear: Congress needs to act on gun violence NOW.”

The statement alluded to how the federal government last year enacted bipartisan congressional legislation that expanded background checks for the youngest gun buyers while funding mental health and violence intervention programs. But, the statement added, Monday was “a painful reminder that we must do more”.

“We are committed to fighting for sensible gun safety measures that will keep New Mexicans safe,” the statement said.

Agencies contributed to this report

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