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Editorial: Fatal shooting on UNM campus raises serious security concerns

“I want to come home.”

That’s what former Lobos basketball player Brooke Berry said to her mother on the morning after a deadly shooting in the heart of the University of New Mexico campus last weekend that police say killed vengeful UNM freshmen and a visiting New Mexico basketball player State University were involved in the city with a firearm.

It wasn’t a promising redshirt freshman Brooke Berry’s first fright on campus since arriving from Billings, Montana. Like nearly all of the other UNM grantees, Berry lived in the Lobo Village apartment complex just west of the pit off I-25, where gunfire rang out on consecutive weekends in June.

Police found several bullet casings, damaged vehicles, bullet holes in walls and a broken window after the June 19 incident. Last weekend, a party got out of control, leaving bullet holes in cars and the walls of the complex.

Although no one was injured in either shooting, the July 1 headline in the Lobo daily newspaper read: “Lobo villagers fear for their safety after the shooting.”

Berry’s mother, Amy Berry, said her daughter hid in the bathtub during one of those shootings.

The November 19 shooting occurred on UNM’s main campus outside of Coronado Hall; 19-year-old UNM student Brandon Travis was killed and 21-year-old NMSU basketball player Mike Peake was shot and injured. Although that shooting didn’t happen anywhere near Lobo Village, Berry’s mother said the last shooting “really broke the camel’s back.”

So she and her husband drove 14 hours to Albuquerque to pick up their daughter and informed Lobos coach Mike Bradbury that Brooke was leaving the school due to recent violent crimes on and around campus.

“Brooke really likes the basketball team and she wanted to get through it but she was scared,” her mom said. “It’s a shame because New Mexico has a great team and a great venue. We really wanted it to work. But basketball is only a small part of life. You have to be safe.”

If ever there was an example of the indirect consequences of violent crime in Albuquerque, it is Brooke Berry. It was only a few months of living in Duke City that she felt so insecure that she wanted out. How many other students are feeling similarly insecure on campus should be of great concern to UNM leaders.

Early Tuesday, the UNM Police Department was responding to a report of a gun attack near Block 300 of Redondo NE – not far from the site of the fatal shooting last weekend.

“The caller told officers they were walking in front of the Redondo Village Apartments when they saw two men parked in a black hatchback-style Jeep,” UNM said in a LoboAlert to the campus. “One of the subjects in the vehicle was described pointing a pistol at them before exiting campus. No shots or injuries were reported.”

Unfortunately, the times when disputes were settled through fisticuffs as a last resort are over. The prospect of violence has become so real that UNM and NMSU have canceled their remaining men’s basketball game this season, which was scheduled to be played December 3 in Las Cruces.

Guns seem to be everywhere, including in the waistband of a visiting Aggie basketball player and in the hands of a UNM student living in a dorm.

Though guns are prohibited on campus by both university policy and state law, university spokeswoman Cinnamon Blair says enforcement has been a challenge for “being an open campus in an urban environment.”

The UNM campus is indeed in an urban setting. Just last month, a 49-year-old man was found dead of apparent homicide in an alleyway in the university area. The discovery of Lawrence Pena’s body on October 15 was the 103rd homicide investigated by the Albuquerque Police Department that year. In 2021, there were 116 homicides in Albuquerque.

The college area is squeezed into the areas with the most homicides in Albuquerque, a Journal map of homicides in 2022 shows.

The campus shooting involving Peake and Travis is a tragedy that neither reflects well on the school nor inspires parents’ confidence in sending their children to either school.

There are currently more questions than answers. Why on earth would a Division I basketball player take a gun on a road trip? Are there security measures that must be in place to prevent this? What discipline did other members of the NMSU team face for violating the curfew?

And what is a UNM student doing with a gun on campus? Ten guns have been found on campus over the past four years, but the UNM does not say what discipline was imposed. Immediate expulsion for having a gun on campus could prove to be a powerful deterrent, especially if the information was campus-wide.

UNM must also reinforce security in and around Lobo Village. It’s not UNM’s own dormitory, but it should take responsibility for security. Hearing gunshots for two consecutive weekends is just unacceptable. Had this happened on the main campus, there would have been an outcry in the university community.

Better communication between the two schools also appears to be needed. Following the Oct. 15 brawl at Aggie Memorial Stadium in Las Cruces involving students from UNM and NMSU, NMSU has shared the potential for more violence with UNM — one of which appears to have sparked last weekend’s deadly shooting Has?

15,000 people planned to go to the pit to watch the Nov. 19 men’s basketball game between UNM and NMSU. Did UNM know about the previous brawls so they could increase security if the match had happened?

At a time when the greatest possible transparency is required, NMSU officials waited until Wednesday to finally face a direct questioning, and then only via Zoom.

UNM and NMSU are in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. It’s going to take a lot of sunshine and honest answers to get out from under that dark cloud.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is not signed as it represents the opinion of the newspaper and not that of the authors.

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