The son of a New Mexico pastor allegedly shot and killed his parents and younger siblings in a horrific rampage. Authorities say 15-year-old Nehemiah Griego reloaded his assault rifles and stocked the family van with ammunition, planning to continue the shooting spree at a local Wal-Mart. Instead, he wound up at the family’s church, where he reported the killings to his pastor. Authorities were alerted, and he allegedly confessed.
Nehemiah Griego has been indicted on five counts of first degree murder, three counts of child abuse (intentionally-caused) and three counts of death of a child under 12 (firearm enhancement). The 15-year-old faces a life imprisonment sentence if convicted. Due to his young age, he is not eligible for the death penalty.
The Griegos were people of faith, people of God. Their community was their church community. On the day his family was murdered, eldest son Nehemiah Griego went to that same church and wandered around. He spent much of the day on the church’s campus. He was greeted by people he had known for years. He ultimately went to the pastor and allegedly told him that his family had been killed, gunned down in their own home.
Fifteen-year-old Nehemiah Griego confessed to the police that he had been the killer.
The Security Chief for Calvary Albuquerque, Vince Harrison, called the police after speaking to the teen. He was alarmed by Griego’s calm, cold, matter-of-fact demeanor, as he described his dead family and the location of the guns that had killed them.
“When I met Nehemiah, I knew something wasn’t right,” Harrison said. “I could feel it, I could see it in his eyes and I could see it in his behavior and his demeanor, so the red flags went up and that’s when I called the sheriff’s department.”
The sheriffs went to the Griego home and found the dead family at about 8:30 on Sunday, January 19. The family had all been slain by the military-grade assault weapon – an AR-15 rifle – they kept unsecured in their home. The family kept a number of weapons in the home.
The Sheriffs took the boy into custody and questioned him. Nehemiah allegedly confessed quick and told the investigators that he was “frustrated” with his mother. That was the only motive he gave for the killings. He allegedly told police that he killed his sleeping mother first, then he shot his 9-year-old brother, who had been sleeping with their mother, in the head. His youngest sister awoke, crying, and he went to their room and shot the 5-year-old and the 2-year-old before lying in wait for his father to come home.
The report generated by law enforcement provides still more chilling detail about Nehemiah’s plans, including a shooting spree at a local Wal-Mart:
“Nehemiah said after killing five of his family members he reloaded the weapons so that he could drive to a populated area to murder more people . . . Nehemiah stated he wanted to shoot people at random and eventually be killed while exchanging gunfire with law enforcement,” the report said.
Fortunately, Nehemiah went to his church instead of Wal-Mart, and no one else was harmed.
Like security chief Harrison, sheriff’s deputies thought the boy’s “very stern” and “unemotional” demeanor during his confession was notable. According to law enforcement, the only time when Nehemiah became animated or excited was when he was talking about his favorite past time, playing violent video games.
Nehemiah also involved his young girlfriend, aged 12, into this terrible case. Nehemiah allegedly texted her a photograph of his mother after he killed her, and he told investigators that part of his plan was to kill her family as well. The authorities have cleared her of any wrongdoing and say she will not be charged.
Prosecutors plan to try fifteen-year-old Nehemiah as an adult.
Nehemiah Griego – The New Mexico teen, 15, who stands accused of killing his family. He was known as a bright and talented musician who played guitar, drums and bass with the church choir. He also was a champion wrestler who dreamed of following his family’s long tradition of military service, and a boy who accompanied his pastor father on rescue missions to Mexico. His family has stated that he was not a loner, but rather an outgoing boy with many friends.
Greg Griego – The shooter’s father, 50, who was allegedly ambushed by his son upon returning home from his shift working at a homeless shelter. He was once a pastor and a volunteer chaplain at Calvary Albuquerque, the family’s church. He also worked as a prison chaplain. In his eulogy, he was remembered for the two principles of faith he held dear – forgiveness and restoration – fitting, given that Griego was also a former gang member.
Sarah Griego – The shooter’s mother, 41, who Nehemiah allegedly killed in her sleep because he was “frustrated” with her. The Griegos had five older children who were not living at home at the time of the shooting and were not harmed.
Jael Griego(5), Zephania Griego(9), Angelina Griego(2) – The shooter’s brother and baby sisters, also victims.
Vince Harrison – The head of security for Calvary Albuquerque, who first alerted police to the killings and who interviewed Nehemiah. He thought the boy’s cold, matter-of-fact demeanor was an indication that something was very wrong.
Senator Eric Griego – Greg Griego’s bother, Nehemiah’s uncle, a former city councilor in Albuquerque and former state legislator. He released the following statement after Nehemiah’s arrest: “Our family is grieving this terrible tragedy. We appreciate the prayers and support we have received and request that the media honor our family’s privacy during this difficult time.” The statement also supported young Nehemiah: “We are deeply concerned about the portrayal in some media of Nehemiah as some kind of a monster,” said the statement. “It is clear to those of us who know and love him that something went terribly wrong. Whether it was a mental breakdown or some deeper undiagnosed psychological issue, we can’t be sure yet. What we do know is that none of us, even in our wildest nightmare, could have imagined that he could do something like this.”
From the little we know thus far about this tragic case, it seems fairly open and shut. The young man allegedly confessed to the killings. In the face of an unchallenged confession, Nehemiah will likely be convicted in the death of his family. Since Nehemiah Griego is not yet an adult, the highest sentence he could get in this case would be life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. He is not eligible for the death penalty.
Of course, in any mass shooting case, there is always a mental health aspect, which could mitigate Nehemiah’s culpability and sentence. At this early juncture we know little about his state of mind when he allegedly killed his family. Statements released by the Griego family indicate that Nehemiah was a happy, normal sort of kid who didn’t fit the profile of the bullied loner that is usually associated with mass killings.