Family, friends question boy’s death at hands of police

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  • Family, friends question teen’s death at hands of police

    From left, Adolfo Arroyo, 15, Marcos Gonzales, 15, and Amanda Gonzales, Marcos’ mother, light a candle Monday for Victor Villalpando at a memorial at the corner of Corlett Road and Riverside Drive in Española. Villalpando was shot and killed by an Española police officer Sunday. Marcos Gonzales and Villalpando had been friends since they were toddlers. Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican

Posted: Monday, June 9, 2014 8:30 pm

To those who knew him, Victor Villalpando didn’t fit the profile of someone who would end up in the gun sight of a police officer.

The 16-year-old El Rito teenager was a gymnastics instructor. He taught hip-hop, studied ballet and was looking forward to attending the New Mexico School for the Arts in Santa Fe for his sophomore year of high school.

But on Sunday morning, according to Española police, he pointed a handgun at two police officers after they were called to check on a suspicious person. One of the officers fired at Villalpando, killing him. State police have been called in to investigate and are reviewing surveillance footage from nearby businesses that might have captured images of the shooting.

Friends, family and others who knew Villalpando said Monday they can’t believe he would have had a gun, much less pointed it at police.

“If he was dabbling with dangerous firearms, we would have known,” said Roger Montoya, artistic director of Moving Arts Española, a nonprofit arts education organization where Villalpando was an instructor. “Because we were all very close to him.”

Española police were called at about 10 a.m. to investigate a report of a suspicious person walking between a doughnut shop and a smoke shop. When police encountered the teenager, Española Public Safety Director Eric Garcia said, Villalpando pointed a handgun at the officers. After trying to talk Villalpando into putting the gun down, Officer Jerry Apodaca shot the teen, said Garcia, who will become Santa Fe’s new police chief Monday. Garcia also said the youth was carrying a knife.

Per department policy, the officers involved in the incident — Apodaca and Ritchie Trujillo — were placed on three days of paid administrative leave.

State police said Monday no new details would be available regarding the investigation. State police — who initially misspelled the teen’s last name as Vialpando in statements issued Sunday — have said the teenager had a weapon, but they haven’t said what type.

People at nearby businesses were hesitant to speak about what they saw or heard Sunday morning. A surveillance camera pointed at the area of the shooting was visible at a smoke shop next to the shooting scene, but employees declined to comment.

Garcia said Apodaca, who has been with the Española police force since 2008, also was involved in a 2011 shooting when a suspect tried to steal a patrol car. Trujillo, who has been with the department since 2012, hasn’t been involved in any shootings during his time with Española police.

Sunday’s incident occurred as New Mexico faces intense scrutiny over a rash of police shootings involving the Albuquerque Police Department as well as state police. In April, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a scathing report criticizing the APD for a pattern of police brutality and unnecessary use of deadly force.

Jonah Shure, 24, the teen’s older brother, said Villalpando had spent Saturday night at a friend’s house in Española, near where he was shot. Schure said his brother told a friend that he was going out for a walk and would be back soon. He said the teen was carrying a “karate stick” that he used for his dance performances and tended to perform with in the streets.

Schure said his brother recently had been going through a typical teenage rebellion phase but that it would be unfair to characterize the teen as a troublemaker. Schure said his brother, like many teenagers, was still trying to find his identity as a young man.

“One week, he wanted to be a rapper, and one week, he was wearing a cowboy hat,” Schure said. “And then he talked about joining the Air Force.”

Schure said the family is having a hard time believing Villalpando was carrying a gun because the family doesn’t own guns and the teen never expressed interest in firearms.

“I don’t know why this happened at all, but the only thing that I can imagine is that he was trying to put on a tough guy persona that people in Española kind of have to because of the real machismo culture there,” the brother said as he held back tears. “And he was struggling becoming a man.”

Days after he was born, a lesbian couple adopted Villalpando through the state’s Children, Youth and Families Department, which had taken him away from his mother. Doctors determined Villalpando had heroin in his system at birth, which affected his motor skills growing up, the brother said.

But Montoya said learning gymnastics gave the teen confidence and enabled him to be comfortable in his own body. His athleticism was impressive to many instructors, including officials at New Mexico School for the Arts, the state-chartered high school in Santa Fe that recently accepted Villalpando to its dance program after a successful audition. He was to start at the school in September.

In the meantime, Villalpando, who was was given an instructor position at Moving Arts Española because of his leadership skills and his dancing skills, was going to serve as a senior youth mentor for children enrolled in a summer program, Montoya said.

Most of the teen’s friends and family say Villalpando was never in trouble with police.

In January, state police investigated a rumor that Villalpando had sent out threatening text messages saying something bad would happen to students at McCurdy School, where he was a student. Sgt. Damyan Brown, a New Mexico State Police spokesman, said that after conducting interviews and searching the teen’s house, investigators didn’t find any evidence to substantiate the alleged threats.

Throughout the day Monday, friends and family a visited a memorial for Villalpando on the corner of Riverside Drive and Corlett Road. At Moving Arts Española, where Villalpando on Monday was supposed to teach a hip-hop class for the start of the organization’s summer program, staff and students created a similar memorial.

Natasha Backhus, an 11-year-old who was taught by Villalpando, wiped away tears and tried to catch her breath as she talked about him as a great teacher.

“Are you going to miss him?” 6-year-old Nilah Velasquez, another student of Villalpando, asked the older girl. “I bet he’s in heaven right now saying, ‘Yeah, I’m dancing.’ ”

Contact Uriel J. Garcia at 986-3062 or ugarcia@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ujohnnyg.

This story was amended to reflect the following correction: Villalpando's brother is Jonah Shure, not Schure.

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  • Destiny Baca posted at 6:01 pm on Wed, Jun 11, 2014.

    destiny baca Posts: 99

    I can tell you other kids can be downright evil if a kid doesn't fit the "typical" sagging, gang banging attitude to the point of being jumped. Schools talk the talk but don't walk the walk especially in Santa Fe. Good thing the administrators I dealt with are gone because they think by bringing a kid in the office will resolve all. Bottom line, he did something he shouldn't have it appears and may God bless his soul. Prayers to all because I am sure as his family and friends are hurting so are the family of the police as well as the one who shot the fatal shot. Unfortunately, that is the job they took but I assure you it will affect him for life.

  • Joy Kelley posted at 3:45 pm on Wed, Jun 11, 2014.

    Joy Kelley Posts: 4

    I did not manage to finish the sentence after "from". I asked a school board member what provisions were being put in place for our safety and that of the students.

  • Joy Kelley posted at 3:41 pm on Wed, Jun 11, 2014.

    Joy Kelley Posts: 4

    No matater what the police did, Victor is dead. I knew Victor. He was my student at McCurdy Charter School and he was a child who exhibited many problems and much anger, yet, he was a child. The school was not the right setting for him, and I am sure that the School of Art would have been much better.

    Teachers were informed via guards at the school that Victor had a hit list, and were asked to sign a sheet of paper saying that we had been notified. No provision was made for our protection or for that of the safety of the students there after this notification. I was treated coldly after inquiring of procedures from We were just to "keep our eyes open". When school was closed for a day after a reported threat by Victor, we still were not allowed to lock our classroom doors. I quit this job soon after because I considered it a dangerous work environment. I am sorry this happened. Victor belonged somewhere else, away from violent atmospheres and attitudes.

    I am shocked that the writer of this article felt the need to emphasize that Victor's parents were "lesbians". I met both of the Moms in conferences, and they were very concerned, very educated people. I wonder if a man and his wife had adopted Victor, the reporter would have felt the need to point out that they were heterosexul?

  • Mark Ordonez posted at 8:47 am on Wed, Jun 11, 2014.

    marcoordonez Posts: 1165

    Hey Artie, , READ the post before making stupid statements that somebody is accusing the cops of using a drop.
    The poster below encouraged the Police to use diligence so no one can accuse them of using a drop, like the yahoos on this comment section who jump to conclusions.

  • Arthur Espinoza posted at 7:21 am on Wed, Jun 11, 2014.

    Spinoza Posts: 11

    Yep, here we are my friends, everyone making assumptions... WAIT until the investigation is completed before making stupid statements that a "drop" was used, etc... Unless you were there, you don't know what happened... I read that a videotape was attained filming the whole thing, OK, let us see it....

  • Francisco Carbajal posted at 9:31 pm on Tue, Jun 10, 2014.

    FranciscoCarbajal Posts: 314

    "Too bad you can't understand that 95% of police departments are corrupt as are most of the police personnel." Oh really? Is this what the DOJ findings were for every police department in the nation or just one in the nation? Where are the facts on this 95% percentage and/or evidence-based allegation of corruption of police departments in this state that you claim exists?[ohmy]

  • ct posted at 6:34 pm on Tue, Jun 10, 2014.

    ct Posts: 9

    Yes Steve, this is how the cops operate, especially in places like New Mexico. You should know this after what has been going on in ABQ PD and w/ the State Police in Taos. Too bad you can't understand that 95% of police departments are corrupt as are most of the police personnel. The truth will come out in due time that this kid was killed with a stick in his hand, not a gun.

  • Steve Salazar posted at 1:40 pm on Tue, Jun 10, 2014.

    Steve Salazar Posts: 1839

    I didn't say it was a drop, I asked if this was what Mr. Ortiz meant by his statement.

  • Glen Post posted at 1:33 pm on Tue, Jun 10, 2014.

    PecosRiver Posts: 43

    You're right Mark, always assume the cops are at fault. It's just good sport for them to shoot civilians, right?

  • Mark Ordonez posted at 11:47 am on Tue, Jun 10, 2014.

    marcoordonez Posts: 1165

    Touchy touchy Steve. I know you're one of those sheeply cop worshipers but take a deep breath, turn off the re-run of Cops you're watching, and re-read the post. He said without diligence in proving where the weapon came from "it LOOKS like a drop." Mr. Ortiz didn't say it "WAS" a drop.
    inhale, exhale, inhale exhale....there there Mr. Sanchez.

  • Steve Salazar posted at 10:37 am on Tue, Jun 10, 2014.

    Steve Salazar Posts: 1839

    Are you saying that the police killed this kid just for fun, to experience killing, and then, to CTB's, they planted a weapon?

  • Peter Neal posted at 9:19 am on Tue, Jun 10, 2014.

    PeterNeal Posts: 841

    I worked many years doing loss prevention (part time) at a local department store. Probably 80% of the shoplifters I caught were teens between 15 and 17 years old. When the parent(s) arrived to pick them up (these juveniles were rarely arrested by police) they were often in disbelief that their kids could do such a thing. They sometimes flat rejected it until the child admitted the theft to the parent, or we showed them the video proof..... some parents don't know their kids as well as they think they do.

  • Ronald Ortiz posted at 7:15 am on Tue, Jun 10, 2014.

    RonnieO Posts: 56

    The police need to do their due diligence, 1st and foremost they need to prove where the weapons came from. Otherwise it looks like a drop was used. It should be a case that our new police chief should resolve before ever putting on a SFPD uniform.


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