Albuquerque police identify slain high school student; no one has been arrested

·5 min read

Feb. 26—Albuquerque police swarmed West Mesa High School on Friday morning in response to reports of gunfire nearby and discovered a dispute between two teens had led to a deadly shooting.

Police later identified the slain student as 16-year-old Andrew Burson, who attended West Mesa High.

Burson — a junior who had been enrolled at the school since 2020, according to district officials — died at the scene.

The incident, which occurred around 8:30 a.m. east of the school's football field on Fortuna Road NW, prompted officials to shut down the campus as police launched a daylong investigation into Albuquerque Public Schools' second fatal shooting during the current school year.

"The students are shaken," said Monica Armenta, a spokeswoman for the district.

"There is just nothing to prepare you to come onto campus and see the faces of these kids" after one of their classmates is fatally shot, she said.

"It's not believed that [other students] at any point [were] in any danger," Armenta added.

A sergeant who arrived at the scene attempted life-saving procedures, police Chief Harold Medina said at a news conference, but the boy did not survive. It appeared he had left the school building and fought with another youth, the chief said, and was fatally wounded by gunfire just across the street.

It was unclear whether the suspected shooter was also a student at the school. Police have not yet named the suspect, whom they had not found as of Friday evening.

"Early indications are we have a juvenile and a firearm, and it's a bad mix," Medina said at the news conference, a joint event with Albuquerque Public Schools that heavily focused on rising gun violence in the city and statewide — especially among teens — and a need for more stringent gun control laws.

Superintendent Scott Elder said the firearm used in the shooting did not come on campus, and students inside the building were not endangered. However, he said, it was "far too close."

Burson's death came six months after 13-year-old Bennie Hargrove was shot and killed outside Washington Middle School in Albuquerque. Fellow student Juan Saucedo Jr. has been charged in that death. He is suspected of using his father's gun to shoot Hargrove amid a bullying incident in which Hargrove had attempted to de-escalate a situation between Saucedo and another student.

Officials made note of Hargrove's death Friday.

"We really need to work together to make sure this doesn't happen again," Elder said.

District Attorney Raúl Torrez said there has been a failure in the state to prevent juveniles from getting their hands on firearms. He cited unsuccessful legislation aimed at addressing the problem in the legislative session that ended last week.

The District Attorney's Office will work to determine how the suspect in Friday's shooting obtained a firearm, Torrez said.

"This is and should be a wake-up call for all of us," he added.

Police and school officials said West Mesa High students sheltered in place briefly Friday morning before they were released to their parents in small groups.

Armenta described an overwhelming sense of shock and grief among students and staff at the West Mesa campus.

"They're eager, I think, to get home," she said as the school continued releasing students. "They're very quiet."

"It's heartbreaking," Armenta said of the fatal gun violence the district has experienced in the last six months. "Our reality is, it seems, that guns are easily available everywhere."

Gun violence is a rising problem throughout the community, she said, not one faced by the school district alone.

"It's really starting to play on the psyches of young kids," Armenta added.

She said the West Mesa campus was shut down Friday due to the large presence of police during an investigation that was expected to last most of the day. It will reopen Monday, she said, adding that grief counselors were available to students and staff members Friday and would return Monday. Counselors will be provided in the following days as needed.

New Mexico Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said the state agency was aiding in the grief response.

"When Superintendent Elder called, we immediately mobilized a team with Public Education Department and Department of Health staff to be on call to provide mental health and social supports to the impacted families and staff at West Mesa High School," he said in a statement.

"Every school in New Mexico has a safety plan, and we're going to review those to make sure we are doing all we can to implement preventative measures," Steinhaus added.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, who also spoke at Friday's news conference, released a statement on the shooting that emphasized a need for more stringent gun laws.

"Today, parents got the worst call imaginable and our community is yet again grappling with trauma caused by a young person who should not have had access to a gun," the statement said.

"We will keep pushing for gun laws that can make a difference and to strengthen conflict resolution and de-escalation across our schools — but as a community, as families and classmates, we have to be having the hard conversations," Keller said. "If you know someone in crisis with a gun, someone who feels they were wronged and is looking for retaliation, say something. We can't afford silence."

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham also released a statement decrying gun violence.

"I am devastated by the death of this young student today," she said. "... Gun violence is a scourge on our society, especially among young people — we must continue to do everything in our power to prevent these tragedies from occurring."