NMSU officials: No police report following Oct. 15 brawl, though basketball players were disciplined
- NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu addresses future of Rio Grande Rivalry
- Athletics Director Mario Moccia affirms support for head coach Greg Heiar
LAS CRUCES - No police report was filed following a brawl involving New Mexico State basketball players and University of New Mexico students on the concourse of Aggie Memorial Stadium on Oct. 15, said New Mexico State Dean of Students Ann Goodman.
The brawl, which happened during the Aggie-Lobo football game, has been cited as the genesis of the discord between UNM student Brandon Travis and NMSU basketball player Mike Peake, leading to a deadly shootout this week on the University of New Mexico campus.
NMSU Athletics Director Mario Moccia said basketball players were disciplined as a result of the brawl at the football game.
Goodman and Moccia, along with NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu, answered questions from media in a Zoom call on Wednesday four days after the early morning shootout between Travis and Peake.
Travis, 19, was killed and Peake, 21, is recovering in an Albuquerque hospital after being shot in the leg.
More:UNM campus shooting raises questions about state's gun laws, possible charges
Peake, the starting forward for the NMSU basketball team, was in Albuquerque for the Aggies' game against the Lobos, scheduled to tip off late Saturday afternoon. He broke team curfew to meet a girl that night, officials have stated. The shooting happened about 3 a.m. outside a UNM dorm.
Police believe Peake was "lured" to campus by Mya Hill, a 17-year-old girl who knew Travis, so that Travis and two other men could ambush him. Hill has been charged with aggravated battery and conspiracy.
Jonathan Smith, one of Travis' friends allegedly involved in the beating, has been charged with aggravated battery, conspiracy and tampering with evidence. Smith told investigators that Travis wanted to jump Peake because "Peake and his friends had beat him up badly at the UNM vs. NMSU homecoming (football) game in Las Cruces, New Mexico," according to the affidavit.
Though it wasn't the homecoming game for the Aggies, the annual UNM-NMSU football game took place in Las Cruces, and there is video evidence of Peake fighting others inside the stadium during the game.
The video, taken from the second level of the stadium looking over the concourse, shows two groups of four to five men engaging in a brawl. Both groups throw punches while Peake, along with New Mexico State basketball player Marchellus "Chi Chi" Avery, are among one throng. It's not clear if other members of the NMSU basketball team are involved.
Peake throws seven or eight punches in the the 54-second clip that was uploaded to Twitter by user @tioneomo on Oct. 16.
Toward the end of the video, a lone New Mexico State Police officer steps between the groups. Peake and another man can be seen pointing and shouting at one another while the officer tries to calm the gathering mob.
Discipline after video surfaces?
As dean of students, Goodman would be in charge of deciding what, if any, discipline should be handed out to NMSU students accused of misconduct.
Goodman said she wasn't aware of the brawl at the football game until a student brought it to the attention of her office five or six days later.
"It was not addressed by police at that time. There was no case number. There was no arrests. There was nothing to that degree. We did not know about it on the front end," she said.
Goodman said the student conduct team in her office is continuing to work with university police to identify people in the video.
"Clearly, we did not necessarily think that that video or the fight was particularly significant. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20," she said.
Moccia said the athletics department became aware of the brawl video the weekend following the football game.
"Discipline was meted out on the individuals that we could identify," he said, though he did not name which players were involved in the brawl nor the level of discipline.
Whatever discipline was handed out, it wasn't obvious to the casual fan. Peake and Avery played in the basketball team's exhibition and regular season games following the fight.
Some have speculated that Mario McKinney, who played with Peake and Avery on the Aggies team last year and transferred to Texas-El Paso in the offseason, was involved in the brawl at the NMSU football game.
This week, UTEP suspended McKinney for at least one game and offered no explanation.
When asked about McKinney's suspension, UTEP Coach Joe Golding told the El Paso Times: "I'm not allowed to comment on that."
Goodman and Moccia each noted they did not know what started the brawl in Aggie Memorial Stadium.
"I don't know that we know what the motivation for the fight was. Was it a rivalry issue or could it have been something else," Goodman said.
'Lowering the temperature' of rivalry games
NMSU and UNM did not play a basketball game following Saturday's shooting and the schools have agreed the game in Albuquerque won't be rescheduled and also canceled the Dec. 3 matchup scheduled in Las Cruces.
The Rio Grande Rivalry games between New Mexico's two Division I schools could have a different feel in subsequent years.
Arvizu said he's talked a number of times with his counterpart, UNM President Garnett Stokes, in the days following the shooting, specifically about ensuring safety around the rivalry games.
"We are both committed to lowering the temperature," he said, adding that the suspension of the men's basketball games will give the universities a chance to "reevaluate how these games take place."
Arvizu said NMSU "will take extra steps" to ensure "proper and appropriate security" at rivalry games.
"I think one of the early observations that we're starting to conclude is that we could have done better at having more, different kinds of security services than we've had in the past," he said.
Among other ways to address anxiety between rival fans could be better delineation of seating within arenas and stadiums, Arvizu said.
Basketball team will play this weekend
The NMSU basketball team is scheduled to return to action Friday, Nov. 25, when the Aggies play San Diego in the first game of the Las Vegas Invitational. NMSU would play either California-Irvine or Nicholls State on Saturday, Nov. 26.
Moccia said all of the players on the team, except Peake, would be making the trip to Las Vegas.
The university has stated Peake wasn't the only player to break curfew the night before the UNM-NMSU basketball game. However, there's no indication that any player other than Peake was present at the time of the shooting.
Moccia said men's basketball Head Coach Greg Heiar has disciplined the other players who missed curfew.
The university addressed what happened the night before the game in Albuquerque in a series of questions and answers handed out to media on Monday: "The team returned to the hotel from dinner at 10:30 p.m., watched film from 10:30 to 11:30 p.m. and bed checks were conducted at 11:45 p.m. All student athletes were in their rooms at that time. An assistant coach was also present in the hotel lobby from midnight until 2 a.m."
On Wednesday, Moccia affirmed his support for Heiar and the actions the coaches took that night.
"We should have all done better, meaning intercollegiate athletics, but I find it hard-pressed that our head coach, Greg Heiar, could have prevented these things," he said.
Moccia said he's talked to Peake in the hospital and that Peake wanted him to know that his coaches "did everything they could." Moccia said he couldn't reveal details of Peake's medical condition.
- Justin Bullock sentenced as Bryanna Terry awaits trial in 2017 death of Dakota Lunceford
- Report: Former UTEP coach fired by Arizona Cardinals for groping woman in Mexico City
- 'He just started shooting': Walmart manager opens fire in break room, killing 6, in Chesapeake, Virginia
Lucas Peerman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @LittleGuyInATie on Twitter.