CLOVIS, N.M. (AP) — Authorities on Tuesday identified the gunman accused of opening fire inside a New Mexico public library as a 16-year-old high school student who they say killed a youth librarian and a second employee while wounding four people, including a 10-year-old boy. Witnesses said the teen seemed to fire randomly during the rampage.
Nathaniel Jouett will face two counts of first-degree murder, four counts of assault with intent to commit a violent felony, four counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and one count of child abuse, said Clovis Police Chief Douglas Ward. Investigators had not uncovered evidence that Jouett knew the victims, he said.
The Associated Press generally does not identify juveniles accused of crimes but is identifying Jouett because of the seriousness of the crime and because authorities said they plan to file a motion requesting the case’s transfer from the juvenile system to adult court.
Ford said it was not immediately clear how Jouett obtained the weapons. The chief also said it is still unclear what prompted the violence Monday afternoon at the Clovis-Carver Public Library, saying investigators are still gathering evidence and conducting interviews to piece together what happened.
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“Right now there are of course a lot of questions that we want answers to,” Gov. Susana Martinez told reporters at a news conference with Clovis officials.
Gunfire erupted inside the library about 4 p.m. Monday. It was unclear how many people were inside at the time, but witnesses reported that parents, children and other patrons were hiding under tables and behind closed doors as the shots rang out.
Police stormed the building with their guns drawn and found Jouett, who immediately surrendered.
The two library workers killed were circulation assistant Wanda Walters, 61, and youth services librarian Kristina Carter, 48.
Another circulation assistant, Jessica Thron, 30, was injured and authorities identified the wounded library patrons as 10-year Noah Molina, his 20-year-old sister Alexis Molina and 53-year-old Howard Jones.
The three adults were in serious condition and the boy was in stable condition Tuesday at University Medical Center in Texas, across the stateline from Clovis, said chief medical officer Mike Ragain. He declined to provide details about their injuries.
Jouett was a sophomore at Clovis High School and appeared to be turning his life around after a troubled period, said the youth’s pastor, Living Word Church of God Pastor David Stevens
He started attending the church three months ago and never gave any indication anything was wrong. Stevens said the teen, who was dating his daughter, had been searching for “inner peace.”
The pastor said Jouett was on a two-day suspension because of a fight at school when the shooting happened. Jouett had said he fought back after another boy hit him but there was nothing to indicate the suspect was overly upset about it, Stevens said.
The boy about two weeks ago helped Stevens’ congregation sell popcorn at the Curry County Fair in Clovis to raise money for a youth camp.
“It’s just more than we can comprehend. I don’t know what happened,” Stevens said. “His mind had to snap. I don’t know any other way to explain it. He was a good kid. He had straightened his life out.”
The pastor also said the teen had contemplated suicide a few months before joining the church but that he appeared to be doing well recently and his father had started coming to church with him.
The teen, Stevens said, was not known to be a regular at the library.
Library patron Nessa Aguirre said in an interview that she and her 11-year-old son were at the circulation desk when they heard a popping sound.
“I looked over and this guy shot into the ceiling, then in every direction,” she said. “I put my son in front of me, bent down and slid across the front circulation desk.”
After hiding in an office and being led by a library worker to a hallway, Aguirre and her son found a door and fled.
Her husband, Lupe Aguirre, went inside to search for his wife when he heard the shots. He saw smoke clearing from gunfire, shell casings on the floor and parents and children hiding under tables.
Lupe Aguirre said he found himself cornered by the gunman.
“He was happy,” Aguirre told the Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/2wQkPGS). “He was just laughing, smiling the whole time until he came up real close to me, and then he put on that mean look.”
The gunman ordered Aguirre to get on the ground. As Aguirre kneeled, he told the shooter someone was looking for him in an attempt to distract him.
Aguirre told the newspaper the shooter then turned around, saw a mother and child on the floor and told them to stay there or he would kill them. Then the shooter walked away in the direction that Aguirre had pointed, he said.
Lisa Baird told The Eastern New Mexico News (http://bit.ly/2wdMWOQ) that she was about 20 feet (6 meters) from the gunman as he opened fire.
“Run!” he yelled at her. “Why aren’t you running? I’m shooting at you! Run!”
The governor called the attack horrific and asked for strength and support as Clovis seeks to recover. Martinez also visited the wounded victims in Lubbock on Tuesday.
City Manager Tom Phelps said the community of about 40,000 is in shock.
“You hear about this in other communities but not Clovis,” he said.