Suit: APS failed to probe reports of gun at school before shooting

·3 min read

Dec. 6—The family of a 13-year-old student fatally shot by another boy at Washington Middle School has filed a lawsuit alleging Albuquerque Public Schools officials could have prevented Bennie Hargrove's death had they investigated rumors of a handgun on campus.

The suit also names as defendants the parents of Juan Saucedo Jr., 13, the boy charged in the shooting, alleging that they were negligent and could have prevented the Aug. 13 killing by properly storing the firearm.

Juan Saucedo Sr. and Luz Saucedo "knew or should have known that (Juan Saucedo Jr.) was violent and could not be trusted around firearms," the suit alleges.

Juan Saucedo Sr. declined to comment about the suit when the Journal reached him by phone Friday. APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta also declined comment Friday, saying the district doesn't comment on pending litigation.

Police allege Juan Saucedo Jr. took his father's gun to school the morning of the shooting and that Hargrove was trying to stop him from bullying his friends when the younger Saucedo pulled the gun and shot him multiple times.

Saucedo Jr. was charged as a juvenile in August with first-degree murder, carrying a deadly weapon on a school campus and two counts of conspiracy. A Children's Court judge has ordered a psychologist to evaluate the boy to determine his ability to stand trial.

The lawsuit filed in 2nd Judicial District Court in Albuquerque also names as defendants the APS board, Superintendent Scott Elder, Washington Middle School and the school's principal, Modesta Herrera-Hernandez, and unidentified faculty and staff at the school.

It was filed by Collette Wise, Hargrove's mother, and Kelly Stout-Sanchez, personal representative of Hargrove's estate.

The suit alleges that APS staff could have prevented Hargrove's death by investigating red-flag warnings about Saucedo Jr.'s behavior.

The warnings include:

—On Aug. 11-12 — the two days prior to the shooting — Saucedo Jr. brought a firearm to school and showed it to friends. He also physically assaulted other students on school property.

—Students alerted staff at Washington Middle School on Aug. 12, or early Aug. 13, that Saucedo Jr. was rumored to have a gun on campus.

—The night before the killing, Saucedo Jr. sent "communications" to Hargrove and other students threatening to "take action against Bennie (Hargrove) for standing up to his bullying."

—The morning of the killing, Saucedo Jr. again brought the firearm to school "potentially with Juan Saucedo Sr. and Luz Saucedo's consent." Also that morning, the junior Saucedo showed the firearm to other students.

—When students were allowed outside the morning of the shooting, staff observed Saucedo Jr. bullying other children and arguing with Hargrove, but failed to intervene.

Saucedo Jr. drew the firearm from his backpack and fired several shots at Hargrove, who fell to the ground, the suit said.

Saucedo Jr. then "began shouting racist comments to the crumpled Bennie Hargrove before shooting him again and finally executing him," the suit said.

The lawsuit alleges the defendants negligently caused Hargrove's death and seeks unspecified damages and costs.

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