Event will honor Aztec High School shooting victims

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FARMINGTON — Aztec Police Chief Mike Heal hopes members of the community use Tuesday's National Night Out event to come together and heal following the Aztec High School shooting.

The annual event is set for 5 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Minium Park at 200 N. Park Ave.

The national event designed to raise awareness about community policing efforts is held the first Tuesday of August in most cities. The Farmington Police Department traditionally holds its event in October so as not to conflict with the Connie Mack World Series.

Heal plans to take time during the event to honor 17-year-old students Casey J. Marquez and Francisco "Paco" Fernandez, who were shot and killed Dec. 7 at Aztec High.

He said the department's main objective with the event is to do something to help the community become stronger. T-shirts honoring the two slain students will be distributed at the event.

Aztec police also will take time to honor retired Officer Ronnie Garner, who was shot in the head while on duty in 1994. Garner survived but had to retire and suffered cognitive damage, according to The Daily Times archives.

National Night Out is also a way for law enforcement officials and the community to come together to tell criminals they are not welcome in Aztec, Heal said.

Shield 616, a nonprofit organization, will donate equipment to the Aztec and Farmington police departments for their school resource officers on Tuesday.

Staples of Aztec's National Night Out will return, including the donut-eating contest and bicycle giveaway. The White Mountain Apache Crown Dancers also will perform.

The San Juan Regional Medical Center will be giving away bicycle safety helmets.

As of Friday, there were 117 local businesses signed up to operate a booth in the park during the event.

Heal said there will be activities for all ages at the event, including a carnival with rides and food such as hot dogs, soda and water. There also will be a classic car show and live music by Grupo Sensacion.

The Aztec High School cheerleaders and Dance Paws will perform. The Bloomfield Police Department will have an inflatable slide set up.

Goggles designed to simulate alcohol impairment will be available for teens and adults to try on.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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