A fight between two groups celebrating birthday parties at Los Altos Skate Park in Northeast Albuquerque exploded into gunfire Sunday night, leaving 17-year-old Sandia High School student Jaquise Lewis dead in the parking lot and six others shot and injured.
One person remains hospitalized in critical condition after what police say they suspect was a gang-related clash.
Richard Brandon, a longtime skater who was at one of the parties, said his friends confronted a man in the other group, claiming someone had stolen a skateboard. Not long after, he said, punches and shots started flying from both sides.
Brandon said he saw his friend whose birthday it was get hit by a bullet and go down.
“He was bleeding out of his stomach,” he said. “The only thing I could think of is it’s like fight or flight.”
Seven people were struck by bullets, including Lewis, who died at the scene. Several cars in the parking lot also were struck by bullets.
Lewis had recently returned to Albuquerque to live with his grandparents after living with his mother in Las Vegas, Nev. He had previously attended Highland and Manzano high schools.
“He loved sports, he loved electronics and computers. He was very high skilled with electronics,” said his mother, Munah Green. “He could get a computer taken apart and put it back together.”
Green jumped in her car and drove to Albuquerque as soon as she heard the news.
“It’s just so senseless and so pointless,” she said. “I will see to it that they be brought to justice.”
Officer Tanner Tixier, a spokesman for the Albuquerque Police Department, said officers were called to the skate park just before 10 p.m. Sunday. They arrived to find a large crowd, with Lewis dead on the sidewalk and others injured. Three people were rushed to a local hospital.
Three others injured by the gunfire walked into area hospitals on their own, he said.
The shooting and its aftermath drew a large crowd, prompting officers to concentrate on crowd control, police spokesman Fred Duran said.
He described the park area as a “large and complex crime scene.”
Two vehicles were towed from the scene so police can search them, Tixier said,
He said the police don’t have any suspects to identify at this time and said police aren’t sure if race played a part in the shooting. Lewis is black and the group he was with was mostly African-American.
“The early indication is it was somehow gang-related. We’re still trying to make sure that was the case,” Tixier said.
Cody Langdon, a longtime regular at the park, said the skateboarders he knows are not involved in gangs.
“Nobody here is part of any gang. And if they are, they are not bringing that into the park,” he said.
Tixier said he doesn’t believe the park has security cameras
“I know there’s a highway camera at I-40 and Eubank, but it was pointed in the wrong direction,” he said.
Langdon said the park is usually peaceful.
Tixier agrees. “I just pulled the calls for service there for the past three years and it didn’t seem like an overwhelming number,” he said.
When fights do break out, Langdon said they are solved without guns.
“If any of us has a problem with each other, we’ll just go into the parking lot and fight,” he said. “I don’t know why people have to shoot each other.”
Journal staff writers Nicole Perez and Jon Swedien contributed to this report.