*The video of Thursday’s full press conference is at the bottom of this page
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Two students have been arrested for having guns on campus at West Mesa High School. According to West Mesa’s website, the school went into a brief shelter-in-place on Thursday morning, October 5, due to “reported threats on campus.” However, in a press conference, APS Executive Director of Communications Monica Armenta said, “At no time today was there any threat made to anyone.”
Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) says police responded to the school, investigated the situation, and found two weapons on campus. Police arrested two male students, one of whom is 17 years old and the other is 18 years old.
Armenta said this is the fifth weapon that has been confiscated from APS high schools this school year alone. Two weapons were confiscated from Atrisco Heritage Academy High School on Friday, September 8, following a fight on campus, one was confiscated from a student’s backpack on Thursday, September 28, at Manzano High School, and two were confiscated from students at West Mesa High School on Thursday, October 5.
APS officials were made aware of the West Mesa weapons when a mother reported that her gun was missing and was concerned that her middle school child, who attends Tres Volcanes Community Collaborative K-8 School, may have had it. In that search, it was discovered that the middle school child did not have the gun, but the name of a West Mesa student surfaced – eventually leading to the arrests of the two West Mesa students who each had a gun on campus.
APS Superintendent Scott Elder said, “We are taking every step we can to make sure these schools are safe.” The superintendent emphasized that the district attorney is taking a strict zero-tolerance approach. Elder said the students have been arrested and will be prosecuted. He also stated that, as required by law, the students will be expelled for a minimum of one calendar year.
All who spoke at the press conference stressed the importance of the “see something, say something” method. Elder stated that it is not enough to put guns in a safe if children are told where the safe is and what the code is. The superintendent says that the weapons found are not an isolated issue to West Mesa High School or even to APS schools in general but are part of a broader issue. “It’s a community issue. This community and this state have got to get a grip on what’s going on with weapons,” said Elder.
Elder said the district is limited with funding and staff which makes it hard to bring in tools like metal detectors. He said they are doing what they can like adding security cameras and looking into getting emergency badges for staff.
They are also working with APD’s Violence Intervention program which educates kids on the consequences of bringing weapons to school and connects them to resources for help. “What we’re discovering a lot of times is that these are kids just making incredibly stupid decisions and it really has an impact for the rest of their lives. This has felony charges,” said Elder.
The state’s governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, issued the following statement regarding the weapons being found at the high school:
“I am thankful for the quick response of Albuquerque Public Schools, as well as the parent who did the right thing by calling in a tip that led staff to one of the firearms – but the bottom line is that all of us have to do more to make sure kids don’t have such easy access to guns. Every one of us has a responsibility to make sure students are safe at school. I am clear: whether we are talking about juveniles or criminals, it is far too easy for the wrong people to get their hands on guns.”
News 13 asked the DA’s office if Bennie’s Law would apply to this situation, they sent this statement:Nancy Laflin, Communications Director, Office of the Second Judicial District Attorney
APS does not know the origins of the guns at this time. The guns have been sent to APD to determine that.
It’s too early to say if Bennie’s Law applies. If anything changes — we will have updates.