'These losses will be felt everywhere': New Mexico shooting victims honored at ceremony

Governor, victims' family members among those attending ceremony

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • Wednesday’s event originally was planned as part of an annual Farmington observance of Police Memorial Day.
  • That plan was changed after Monday's tragedy to include the women who were killed in the mass shooting.
  • The event drew an estimated 300 to 400 people to the terrace of the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.

FARMINGTON — An overflow crowd of 300 to 400 people gathered on the terrace outside the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park to honor law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty and the victims of this week’s mass shooting in a Farmington neighborhood.

Wednesday night's ceremony was emotional.

Among those in attendance were several family members of the three women who died on Monday, May 15 when an 18-year-old Farmington resident went on a shooting rampage on North Dustin Avenue before police officers fatally shot him. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who spoke at the event, offered hugs and words of comfort to surviving family members in attendance.

The governor assured the crowd the entire state shared its shock and grief.

“These losses will be felt everywhere,” she said. “But they will hurt more here.”

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham hugs a family member of one of the deceased victims of Monday's mass shooting in Farmington during a memorial ceremony on Wednesday, May 17 outside the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.

Lujan Grisham acknowledged that San Juan County residents are moving through a dark space in the aftermath of the tragedy. But she encouraged residents not to dwell in that space and instead embrace a sense of community that she said could serve as a reawakening. Moving toward a “collective, loving future,” she said, was the most respectful thing residents can do to honor fallen law enforcement officers and the shooting victims.

Wednesday’s event originally was planned as part of an annual Farmington observance of Police Memorial Day, a nationwide event that honors the sacrifice made by fallen law enforcement officers.

More:Police find note on body of teen shooter who killed 3 in Farmington, New Mexico shooting

Police Chief Steve Hebbe said that plan changed in the wake of the deadly shooting as he and the members of his department considered whether to reschedule or alter the event.

Ultimately, he said, they reached the conclusion that holding the ceremony as planned — and including the victims who perished this week — was the best way to honor their memory.

Chief Steve Hebbe of the Farmington Police Department discusses Monday's mass shooting in Farmington during a Wednesday, May 17 memorial event outside the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.

He expressed his gratitude to the hundreds of people who turned out for the event, noting their presence spoke volumes about their devotion to their community.

“There aren’t words that are going to make a difference,” he said. “It’s the gesture of being here and saying that you care.”

Hebbe was forced to pause periodically throughout his speech, as were many of the speakers, who were overcome with emotion. He had a particularly difficult time when he recounted having watched video footage of part of Monday’s shootings.

Hebbe said what struck him was seeing Farmington citizens emerge from the safety of their homes in the middle of the incident to point pursuing officers in the direction of the fleeing suspect. That occurred even as officers were running past the bodies of people who already had been shot, he said.

More:Farmington, New Mexico shooting victims: 3 women killed, 2 officers injured identified

The chief said those acts demonstrated to him residents' selflessness to help his officers. He said that his officers and citizens alike now must rely on each other again to cope with what has happened.

“We’re all together in this trying to get through the day,” he said.

Nevertheless, Hebbe said, the incident has left a mark on Farmington that won’t soon be forgotten.

“Some things are beyond our control,” he said. “And we have to find a way to live with that.”

Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett addresses the crowd during a Wednesday, May 17 memorial service for fallen law enforcement officers and those killed in Monday's mass shooting in Farmington at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.

Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett also praised those present in attendance for standing together.

“This is exactly what we need right now,” he said. “It’s what we’re going to need in the days ahead and the weeks ahead.”

Duckett said he hoped the tragedy would serve as an opportunity for citizens to recognize how they can be better neighbors to each other.

“Stay connected — that’s what neighbors do,” he said. “ … Take the time to speak with your people. We need good ears right now.”

Duckett also remarked on how overwhelmed he was when he saw video from Monday’s incident.

“What I saw on the body cam footage was the single most heroic thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said, describing the sight of Farmington police officers running full speed into the line of fire.

“That’s what we ask them to do,” he said.

Despite its somber tone, the event did have moments of levity. Duckett noted that Farmington police respond to more than 6,000 calls a month.

“I call all the time, just so you know,” he said, drawing an assortment of chuckles from the crowd. “I may be half of those.”

But the video he watched earlier this week quickly gave him a new perspective on his role as an elected official, he said, explaining that he has been mayor for five years and was a member of the City Council for four years before that.

“It’s changed the way I think about service to other people,” he said. “It’s changed the way I think about life in general.”

San Juan County Sheriff Shane Ferrari delivers an address during a Wednesday, May 17 memorial event outside the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.

In his remarks, San Juan County Sheriff Shane Ferrari said this week was supposed to be a celebratory time in the county, with many local high schools holding their graduation ceremonies. Monday’s mass shooting has cast a pall on those celebrations, he said, but he expressed gratitude for the fact that officers ended the shooting rampage as quickly as they did.

“This evil event could have been much worse if not for law enforcement officers,” he said.

While they may be shaken by the tragedy, Ferrari said citizens should take heart in the law enforcement response to the mass shooting.

“I want to assure you our county is safe, although it doesn’t seem like it at this instant,” he said.

Ferrari endorsed the spirit of togetherness referred to by other speakers at the event, even as the community struggles to emerge from the darkness and shock of such a violent event.

“I call on you to be the moonlight in someone’s darkness,” he said.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 ormeasterling@daily-times.com.

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