LAS VEGAS, N.M. — As the last students who had sought counseling Monday at West Las Vegas High School quietly left the campus, head football coach Adrian Gonzales reflected on the community-wide effects of what might have been an unintended fatal shooting at a New Year’s Eve party in nearby Ribera involving two members of his team.

“A lot of people are hurting,” the coach said.

The high school opened its doors Sunday and Monday to provide grief counseling to students and staff before classes resume Wednesday. Gonzales said “a lot of kids” took up the offer.

New Mexico State Police on Sunday announced 18-year-old Joaquin Sanchez of Ribera had been arrested and charged with second-degree murder and negligent use of a firearm in the death of Joshua Vigil, 17, also of Ribera, during a party at Sanchez’s home.

Both were on the roster of the West Las Vegas Dons football team.

Sanchez, who was booked in the San Miguel County jail, is accused of shooting Vigil in the head with a hunting rifle, according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed Monday in San Miguel County Magistrate Court.

The document said Sanchez told police he believed the firearm was unloaded.

Sanchez was holding a party for friends at his family’s mobile home in Ribera, a small community of about 500 people that lies 25 miles southwest of Las Vegas. The homeowners were not present, the affidavit said, adding Sanchez told police he became “agitated and angry” when his guests began throwing trash on the floor.

He went to his parents’ bedroom and grabbed a rifle, identified by officers as a .270 bolt-action rifle.

“He said he pulled back the rifle’s bolt four times and believed it was unloaded” before he fired a shot that killed Vigil, police wrote in the affidavit.

State police arrived at the home after receiving a 911 call around 10:21 p.m. from someone attending the party who said a teen had been “shot in the face,” according to the affidavit.

Officers encountered Sanchez and his mother outside the home and heard Sanchez tell his mother, “He told me to shoot him,” the affidavit said.

The officers found Vigil on the floor near the kitchen table, according to the document.

Although about a dozen people had attended the party, only five were still present when officers arrived, investigators wrote.

Sanchez was taken to the state police office in Las Vegas and agreed to an interview. He told officers he drank “approximately two beers and three shots of Crown Royal liquor” at the party before the shooting.

Witnesses provided statements supporting Sanchez’s account of the incident, telling investigators he had retrieved a rifle from a bedroom, said it was unloaded and then aimed at Vigil and fired. One, a 16-year-old boy, told officers he went outside after Sanchez said, “It’s not loaded” and pushed the bolt forward. He then heard the gunshot.

Two women who answered the door at the mobile home Monday afternoon declined to speak about the shooting.

Both the Ribera and Las Vegas communities have been largely silent about Vigil’s death, with little commentary about the incident on social media.

A message posted on the West Las Vegas High football team’s Twitter account Saturday referred to a “horrible tragedy,” and the West Las Vegas High School News announced on its Facebook page that counseling would be available to students and staff who needed support, though it did not mention Friday night’s shooting.

The post asked viewers not to leave comments and said, “Any and all comments will be deleted.”

West Las Vegas Public Schools Superintendent Christopher Gutierrez did not return calls seeking comment Sunday and Monday. He said in a brief interview Saturday, before law enforcement had confirmed Vigil’s death, that he would not comment on the incident involving students because it had occurred off campus.

“This is something that the parents need to deal with,” Gutierrez said.

The Las Vegas Optic reported a judge set a $100,000 bond for Sanchez at a hearing Monday. Under the conditions of his release, he would be subject to house arrest with a GPS monitor. A hearing was scheduled to review the conditions Thursday, and Sanchez was scheduled to appear Jan. 11 in San Miguel Magistrate Court for a preliminary hearing, the Optic reported.

General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.

(18) comments

Kirk Holmes

While a sophomore in High School in the fall of 1974, and with both the school's principal and my Speech & Drama class teacher's pre-approval, my father helped me carry in 6 different firearms into school for a speech I had prepared on the various types of firearms, their use, and gun safety practices. 2 of the firearms were the "evil semi-automatic" types (a Colt 1911 and a Remington Mod 1100). Oh the horror!!!!! the horror!!!! I received an A for my speech from the teacher (maybe because he was a hunter / firearm enthusiast himself? - but I like to think I did a good job as well). Anyway, I had very good parenting growing up - this was way back in 1974 mind you. My father always kept firearms and ammunition locked up separate from one another, however I knew exactly where the keys were. Not once did I ever even think about taking the keys and open up the cabinets. I respected my parents, and knew that had I took a firearm out without permission, there would be h_ll to pay if I got caught.

Khal Spencer

Sounds like you and I grew up in the same household, Kirk.

Mike Johnson

Times have changed and as I was a gun owner at 16 (you could legally buy a WWII surplus rifle at the Army-Navy store in Roswell at that time) and also played high school sports the idea of drunken parties with guns involved was just never something that happened. I don't know what has happened to youth these days, but I would look at those issues before trying to pass a raft of gun laws and restrictions.

Kirk Holmes

[thumbup][thumbup] Yes sir Khal!!

Miranda Viscoli

Those households have changed. Decades ago. And existed for few. Face the music. Let's help these kids.

Khal Spencer

I wonder how many households had a better grasp of gun ethics back in the day. I was a kid in Upstate New York, not New Mexico. I had a broken nose from a school fight and the other kid had a tooth knocked out. No one dreamed of using a firearm to solve these things. It would not have occurred to anyone.

Irregardless, you are right, Miranda, the times have changed. David Yamane's work, comparing gun culture changes over the last half century, is compelling. We need to help the kids. All of us. How about a meeting of the minds where we all agree on a few key things and put our efforts together?

Miranda Viscoli

Once again, a teenager is dead and another one in jail because parents refuse to lock up their guns and store ammunition separately. New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence has handed out 1000’s of free gun locks and gun safety information this past year. Too many times parents tell us, “Thank you, I keep forgetting to lock them up and I have children at home.”

Khal Spencer


This teen is in jail because like many teens in New Mexico, he decided that solutions to his problems come out of the barrel of a gun. Parents not only fail to secure their weapons, but they fail to, as Crosby, Stills, and Nash once said, "teach your children". The results of both lax parenting (or perhaps the fruit not falling far from the tree) and poor gun security are inevitable. If either were done properly, this stuff would not be happening on a routine basis.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup]Well said Khal, gun locks and gun safes are not the answer to this. I would like to see a manditory gun safety course in schools, that makes more sense than CRT courses to save lives and teach kids about gun safety. If he thought the gun was unloaded, he obviously had no training from anyone about guns, and that is like giving a teen a car without any training.

Khal Spencer

If a bunch of someone else's kids were going to be in a house, it should have everything locked down since one doesn't know what other people's kids are going to do. And as far as guns? Heck, by the time I was 14, I knew how to check and safe every firearm in our home. As you imply, knowledge is the power to not goof up.

Khal Spencer

Seems to me that gun safety SHOULD be taught in middle or secondary school, just as writing, reading, and speaking are taught in support of our right to freedom of speech and health class is provided to keep kids healthy (or was health cancelled?). Not to mention, because firearms are so common in New Mexico. But I can see that idea going over like a lead balloon around here. As my pen pal Dan commented on twitter this morning, "There is no money in compromise. Look at how much money is raised by both the pro-and anti- sides of this. I know in the past someone tried to get a public-access to NICS which would allow private sales to be NICS-approved. It got nowhere, wasn't polarizing enough. Drove no $."

I'd love to see the NMTPGV and NMSSA get together and find some common ground. No one wins at a time like this. We all lose.

Khal Spencer

Oh, C, S, N, and Young....

Khal Spencer

Totally unnecessary. Never mix guns with alcohol. Never pull out a gun in a state of anger. And as one of the Four Rules says, all guns are always loaded. As another one of the Four Rules says, never point a gun at something you don't actually want to destroy.

Its not hard to figure out if a rifle is loaded. Check the chamber and the magazine. Well, maybe a little harder when you are drinking and angry and not paying attention to detail.

Totally unnecessary and utterly foolish behavior. And, oh, of course, why is a hunting rifle sitting loaded in a bedroom during a teen party? Someone, in my never humble opinion, missed the boat on a critical responsibility. The result? One life ended, another one destroyed.

Michael Kiley

Sadly, one more in the long trail of fatal shootings instantiates the FBI Uniform Crime Reports anyone who cares can see online, that if you kill someone with a gun, it will never (probability 1/1,000,000) be in self-defense, it will be (probability 89%) yourself, a relative or a friend. Lose the gun, and if you are afraid, get a rescue dog, or two.

David Romero

No one is going to put their guns away as long as the criminals have them. The fire arm is only as dangerous as the people using them

Richard Reinders

I have owned guns for most of my 66 years and not one of them ever killed any one, if the kid couldn't find the rifle he would have grabbed a kitchen knife and if not a knife a baseball bat. If someone wants to hurt someone or make a point he will find a way. The stats from an earlier report 2009 have 289 deaths by firearm and 299 by other methods from knife to strangulation, 63.3 % of these were by suicide.

Kirk Allison

If you're going to use numbers, at least be accurate. A million non-self defense gun deaths for every one self defense incident? Unless you're using your own personal definition of what qualifies as self defense, or the new 2+2 doesn't necessarily equal 4 math, you are off base here.

Khal Spencer

Yep. Orwell came to my mind, too. Or, that old book "How to lie with statistics".

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