SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A high school student who killed three women in northwestern New Mexico with an indiscriminate spray of gunfire left a cryptic note presaging “the end of the chapter” and wore a bulletproof vest that he discarded before being shot to death by police, authorities said Wednesday.
Police added new details to the profile of the lone gunman and the weaponry he used as he walked through his residential neighborhood before being confronted by officers and fatally shot outside a church. The shooter discharged more than 190 rounds during the rampage, according to authorities, most of them from the home he shared with his father.
Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said in a news conference that 18-year-old Beau Wilson was wearing what appeared to be a modified vest with steel plates and that the note was found in his pocket. Handwritten in green lettering, the message said in part, “if your reading this im the end of the chapter.”
Wilson began shooting with an AR-15 rifle just outside his home, from the front porch area, but quickly dropped that into some bushes even though it still held more live ammunition, police said.
The gunman continued firing with two pistols, discarding a .22-caliber gun and then depleting rounds from a 9-mm handgun in the final shootout with police, during which he let off at least 18 rounds.
Slain by the shooter were longtime Farmington residents Gwendolyn Schofield, 97, her 73-year-old daughter, Melody Ivie, and 79-year-old Shirley Voita, police said.
The women were well known in the community, in part through participation in faith-based groups. Ivie ran a preschool for four decades that was attended by several generations of residents.
Those wounded in the attack include Farmington police Sgt. Rachel Discenza and New Mexico State Police Officer Andreas Stamatiadas. The officers were treated at a local hospital and released.
Police are probing Wilson’s access to weapons and concerns about his prior mental health, and efforts are underway to subpoena medical and school records that might shed light on any issues.
“We have been talking with family members and trying to do more investigation into his mental health that appears to — early on — to be a factor,” Hebbe said.
At the same time, Hebbe said, “there did not appear to be significant indications that … something was going to happen that day.”
New Mexico enacted a so-called red flag law in 2020 that can be used to seize guns from people who pose a danger to themselves or others. Judicial records show the Farmington Police Department has petitioned successfully for the removal of guns in other instances, most recently in February.
In November, after he turned 18, Wilson legally purchased the assault-style weapon used Monday, according to police. They believe two of the three weapons he carried were owned by relatives.
Two days before the attack, Wilson purchased additional ammunition magazines, police said.
Authorities said it appears he shot indiscriminately at vehicles, and bullets struck 11 of them along with seven homes.
Additional weapons and ammunition were found at the home Wilson shared with his father, but Hebbe said he did not appear to have organized those before he left the house. The suspect had access to over 1,400 rounds of ammunition and 10 other weapons at the time of the attack.
“He planned to use the three weapons he had,” Hebbe said, “and he went outside and he did just that.”
Police say evidence shows that at least 176 rounds were fired by Wilson from an assault rifle near his house at the outset of the rampage.
A community vigil was planned for Wednesday night at the Farmington Museum, the latest in a series of gatherings to remember and mourn victims of the shooting.
Wilson was a senior at Farmington High School and had been scheduled to graduate the next day.
At the school’s commencement ceremony Tuesday, speakers talked of resilience and hope.
A chair was left empty with a bouquet of white roses “in memory of those we lost throughout the years,” school district spokesperson Roberto Taboada said.
Yamat reported from Las Vegas, Nevada. Associated Press writer Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.