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.