The shooting deaths of an Albuquerque family, allegedly at the hands of their teenage son and brother, is another horror story in America’s never-ending battle with gun violence.
It is too much to absorb, that a 15-year-old should shoot his mother, a younger brother and two younger sisters, before lying in wait for five hours to ambush his father. He is believed to have sent his 12-year-old girlfriend a photo of his mom’s bloody head. The teen told police he then gathered loaded weapons to drive off and find more people to kill, perhaps at a Wal-Mart, where many people would be shopping. He reached out to a friend, and met at a church instead, likely sparing the lives of countless strangers. Then, with his family dead in their South Valley home, the 15-year-old spent much of the day at his church, Calvary Chapel. According to the statement he gave investigators, the boy eventually told a security guard that his family had been killed at home. The guard drove the boy home, saw the father lying dead on the floor and called 911.
The accused is Nehemiah Griego, 15, son of well-known Albuquerque pastor Greg Griego and stay-at-home mom Sarah. Also dead are his 9-year-old brother and two sisters, one 2 years old. Greg Griego’s brother, Eric Griego, is a former New Mexico state senator and a recent candidate for Congress. The shootings come as both the country and New Mexico begin talking about how we can better protect our citizens from gun violence.
We don’t know enough about this particular shooting and the mental condition of this teenage boy to know whether bans on ammunition or types of guns or better mental health screening could have prevented this tragedy. In other words, all the laws currently being considered might make little difference should someone snap. It does appear, based on early reports, that the guns in the home were not secured in a gun safe, but stored in a closet where they could be grabbed easily. We have said before, and most likely will say again, that securing guns is an essential part of changing this nation’s culture of violence — whether through laws or smart individual action. On Monday, in the newspaper’s police reports, a homeowner reported a burglary on Cerro Gordo. A handgun was among items stolen. Who knows where that gun will end up? Guns that are not stored properly can and will be used for evil.
And, surely, it is evil that visited the Griego home over the weekend. We struggle to find answers to why a teenage boy would have fantasies of murder and suicide; the attack, evidently, was planned. One usual suspect — an absentee parent — is not present in this case. The 15-year-old lived in a two-parent home; his father, a former gang member who had turned his life over to Jesus, taught him to shoot as do so many fathers. Neighbors said that the boy was kept away from violent video games. Despite his parents’ vigilance, Nehemiah told sheriff’s deputies that he loved video games anyway. Did an obsession with virtual violence spill over into real life once again? That connection must be re-examined as part of the national conversation on violence.
This tragedy remains as mysterious as it is horrific — there are no satisfactory answers. In the meantime, people who choose to own guns must also choose to lock them in a gun safe. Store ammunition separately. Buy and install trigger locks. Now, this 15-year-old boy who told police he had been annoyed with his mother is facing trial as an adult. His family, his community, is shattered. Police said Tuesday they remain baffled at the why of this case: “There is no best judgment of motive on our part,” Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston said. “It is beyond any human reasoning or understanding at this time.” At this time, and for all time.