Farmington shooter was wearing bulletproof vest, carried note in his pocket, police say
By Elise Kaplan / Journal Investigative Reporter Published: Wednesday, May 17th, 2023 at 2:52PMUpdated: Wednesday, May 17th, 2023 at 6:55PM
When 18-year-old Beau Wilson stepped out of his father's house in Farmington on Monday morning police say he was wearing a bulletproof vest and firing an AR-15 — and he had a note in his pocket saying, among other things, "If you’re reading this I’m the end of the chapter."
Police say Wilson fired 141 rounds from his house on North Dustin with the assault-style rifle — fatally shooting three women over the age of 70 — before dropping the weapon in nearby bushes, taking off the vest and walking down the street continuing to fire one handgun and then a second.
Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe provided these details and more at a Wednesday news conference about the shooting, saying investigators are continuing to learn more about what unfolded.
"It isn't a nice contained scene where our officers are able to keep everything and count stuff pretty easily," Hebbe said. "It's spreading throughout the neighborhood. He's firing at different people, he's firing at different cars and buildings as he's walking, and then he begins discarding stuff."
Six people, including a Farmington Police Department sergeant and a New Mexico State Police officer, were injured in the shooting. Both officers were treated at the hospital and released.
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Seven houses and 11 vehicles were hit by the gunfire.
The Farmington High School senior had been expected to graduate on Tuesday, a school district spokesman confirmed Wednesday. Instead Wilson died in a shootout with officers in front of a church about a quarter mile from his house.
"This only goes to the why, or the details, it doesn't go to the why something like this happened in the first place and how we are going to prevent this," Hebbe said. "Those are the things that frankly keep me up and I agonize over every night as I’m going to bed — to try to figure out how we’re going to keep our citizens safe in the world."
The note in Wilson's pocket, scrawled in green ink, also said "lay eyes or dear (sic.) put a finger on my little sister I promise there will be regrets."
Hebbe said investigators have not learned of any issues regarding Wilson's sister or if there was any kind of "significant event" before the shooting.
"This is about the best we got," he said. "We have not found any other notes. We don't have any other statements and our contact with the family said there does not seem to be significant indication that something would happen that day."
On a normal day, around 11 a.m., the San Juan County Communications Authority gets about 56 calls in an hour and a half.
On Monday at that time, it received 233 calls for service, said director Nicole Brown.
"It was a large call volume," Brown said. "Everyone who could possibly be answering phones was answering phones."
Multiple agencies, including Farmington Police Department, San Juan County Sheriff's Office, and the New Mexico State Police, responded to the scene on a busy thoroughfare going through a neighborhood.
"At the end of it — when we had a suspect down — we know we have civilian casualties, we have officers who have been hit and we have fire and EMS responding to the scene before it's secure," Hebbe said. "We still think there's a possibility of a second shooter in the early stages, nonetheless fire came racing in with their medics to begin treatment on citizens right away."
Gwendolyn Schofield, 97, and her 73-year-old daughter Melody Ivie died at the scene. Shirley Voita, 79, was taken to the San Juan Regional Medical Center, where she died.
Six others, including the two officers who were hit, were treated at the hospital for injuries sustained either from bullets or shattering glass. Seven people were treated by medics at the scene.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham attended a vigil in Farmington on Wednesday night in honor of those who were killed.
Wilson had bought the AR-15 legally in November, about a month after his 18th birthday.
Then, two days before the shooting, he bought three magazines for the weapon, Hebbe said.
When asked if this meant investigators believe the shooting spree was pre-meditated, Hebbe said either he was preparing for something or he was just buying more magazines for a weapon he already owned.
"I can't really subscribe to what exactly he was thinking but yes it is a red flag for us that maybe he was planning something," Hebbe said.
The other two guns used in the shooting — a 9mm handgun and a .22 caliber firearm — belonged to a family member, officials say. Inside the house Wilson shared with his father were 10 other guns, Hebbe said, although there is no indication that the suspect intended to use them.
He said in all there were more than 1,400 rounds of ammunition available between what was fired, what was still in the weapons and what was in the home for the other guns.
"It isn't illegal for people to own weapons," Hebbe said. "His dad had weapons in the house like many folks do … At this point in time were not holding anyone responsible."
Wilson's father could not be reached Wednesday.
Hebbe said investigators have been speaking with Wilson's family about his mental health and are continuing to investigate whether that was a factor in the shooting. Wilson doesn't have a criminal history and detectives are serving subpoenas for school records.
"Our initial report from the family of the suspect is that he was struggling with mental health issues," Hebbe said. "We’ll wind up finding what medication if any he was taking, whether he was under a doctor's care in some form or fashion."
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