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New Mexico school shooting suspect to remain in custody

Albuquerque Police Department officers search a student after a shooting at Washington Middle School that left one student dead and another in custody, police said Friday. A 13-year-old New Mexico boy accused of shooting and killing a classmate will remain in custody pending trial. (Ryan Laughlin/KOB 4 TV via AP)

ALBUQUERQUE – A 13-year-old New Mexico boy accused of shooting and killing a classmate will remain in custody pending trial.

A Children’s Court judge agreed with prosecutors during a virtual hearing Tuesday and ordered the boy to remain at the Bernalillo County Youth Services Center.

The boy is charged with an open count of murder and unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon on school premises. The Associated Press does not generally identify juvenile crime suspects.

The shooting happened during the lunch hour Friday at Washington Middle School in front of numerous students, who had returned for the fall semester just two days earlier. Police have said the victim – 13-year-old Bennie Hargrove – was trying to protect another boy who was being bullied.

The suspect’s court-appointed attorney, Dennica Torres, raised issues of the boy’s competency during his initial appearance, saying the teen needs counseling and treatment for mental health issues.

Judge Catherine Begaye ruled that the boy poses a danger to others and noted the allegations against him.

Students returned to school Tuesday to find a bolstered police presence and crisis counselors.

Court records, police reports and witnesses detail the history of the suspect’s family with Albuquerque Public Schools and the criminal history of the boy’s father, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

In November 2015, an elementary school teacher said she was in a classroom with a parent and her daughter when, without warning, the suspect’s mother came into the room and attacked the mother.

In 2018, a fight between parents that started with words and a fist escalated to poles, bats and gunfire in the student pickup lane outside Highland High School. The suspect’s father had shot and wounded another parent, but police never filed any charges after finding that both men had defense claims.

In 2013, the suspect’s father was arrested on drug trafficking charges after police found a methamphetamine pipe and several bags of the drug on him. The man told police he was selling meth to get extra money for his daughter’s 15th birthday, according to a police report. The case was later dismissed.