The bullets that an 18-year-old man fired while meandering through a northwestern New Mexico neighborhood struck targets apparently picked at random, including cars, homes and passersby. Police responded to the scene within minutes and swiftly killed the gunman, but not before he killed three people and wounded several others.
Authorities on Tuesday were trying to determine what led to Monday’s attack in Farmington, a city of about 50,000 that is a bedroom community for the oil and gas industry near the Four Corners, where New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado meet.
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The attacker, whose name hadn’t been released as of Tuesday morning, carried at least three weapons, including an AR-style rifle, according to police. Authorities also hadn’t identified the dead or six wounded, including two police officers who were treated at a hospital. Police were expected to release further details about the case at a Tuesday afternoon news conference.
“At this point it appears to be purely random, that there was no schools, no churches and no individuals targeted,” Police Chief Steve Hebbe said Monday night in a recorded video statement.
Hebbe said the “suspect randomly fired at whatever entered his head to shoot at,” as bullets pierced a half-dozen houses and several cars.
It was “honestly one of the most horrific and difficult days that Farmington has ever had as a community,” he said.
Former state Rep. James Strickler said among the three killed were an elderly mother and daughter who were both over the age of 70.
“Obviously this person is not of sound mind. It’s tragic, because these poor ladies were innocent,” Strickler said.
Officers began receiving reports of gunshots at about 10:57 a.m. and the first one arrived at the scene at 11:02 a.m., Hebbe said. Three minutes later, the gunman had been killed.
A Farmington officer was wounded and taken to a hospital where he was treated and released. A state police officer who was shot and drove himself to the hospital, where he remained Monday and was doing well, Hebbe said. That officer was reported to be in stable condition.
Joseph Robledo, a 32-year-old tree trimmer, said he rushed home after learning that his wife and year-old daughter had sought shelter in the laundry room when gunshots rang out. A bullet went through his daughter’s window and room, without hitting anyone.
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Robledo jumped a fence to get in through the back door. Out front, he found an older woman in the street who had been wounded while driving by. She appeared to have fallen out of her car, which kept rolling without her, he 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 said. He and others began to administer first aid.
Neighbors directed an arriving police officer toward the suspect.
“We were telling (the officer), ‘He’s down there.’ … The cop just went straight into action,” Robledo said.
Robledo’s own family car was perforated with bullets.
“We’ve been doing yard work all last week. I just thank God that nobody was outside in front,” he said. “Obviously, elderly people — he didn’t have no sympathy for them.”
Downtown Farmington, which is a short drive from the residential neighborhood where the attack happened, has undergone a transformation of sorts in recent years, with cafes and breweries cropping up alongside decades-old businesses that trade in Native American crafts from silver jewelry to wool weavings.
Nick Akins, a middle school teacher who lives in the area where the attack occurred, said it’s a great place to live, with a mix of homes, short-term rental apartments and churches.
“You never think it’s going to happen here, and all of a sudden, in a tiny little town, it comes here,” Akins said.
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As night approached Monday, dozens of people gathered at Hills Church, a few miles (kilometers) from the attack scene, to pray at the base of a tall metal cross. Lead pastor Matt Mizell talked about living in a “dark and broken world” but told the crowd there was still hope and asked God to provide them strength.
Politicians also weighed in about the attack.
Mayor Nate Duckett said in a statement that the shooting “has left us reeling in anguish and disbelief.”
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement that she was praying for the families of those killed and that it “serves at yet another reminder of how gun violence destroys lives in our state and our country every single day.”
Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, a Democrat who represents the area in Congress, said in a Facebook post that “our beautiful Nuevo Mexico is not immune to the mass shootings that occur across the country — Every. Single. Day.”
“I praise the heroes who drove to danger to stop the violence. I pray for the quick recovery of the wounded and for the families of those we lost,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.