Father of teen suspect in fatal shooting appears in court

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TAOS COUNTY, N.M. – A new law aimed at protecting youth and holding irresponsible gun owners accountable is playing out for the first time in court.

The father of a 14-year-old murder suspect was in court Monday. 39-year-old William Brown Jr. is accused of failing to properly secure his firearms.

Police say his son used his dad’s firearm to shoot and kill a 13-year-old girl Friday in Questa.

The charges stem from a recently passed state law known as Bennie’s Law. It essentially holds gun owners – or in this case, the suspect’s dad – responsible for failing to properly store their weapons away from minors.

While this is the first time it has been used, agencies in the metro say it is absolutely on the radar.

A GoFundMe page identified the victim as 13-year-old Amber Archuleta.

State police say Brown’s 14-year-old son had friends over. At some point, he allegedly pulled out a gun and shot Archuleta.

Brown wasn’t home when it happened, but told police “all of the firearms in the home were his.”

“New Mexico citizens, if you have guns take this seriously because in an instant this can turn tragic. Lives are lost, these are children. It’s inexcusable,” said Eighth Judicial District Attorney Marcus Montoya. 

Montoya’s office is handling the case. He says this should send a very strong statewide message that gun owners are legally responsible if their weapons negligently get into the hands of minors. 

In this case, Brown is facing a fourth-degree felony – possibly 18 months in prison.

“It adds a component of accountability, something this state has never had before,” said Montoya. 

Bennie’s Law was passed and signed this year. It was named in honor of Bennie Hargrove, a Washington Middle School student who police say was shot and killed by a classmate who brought his father’s gun to school.

State Rep. Pamelya Herndon was a sponsor.

“What the Bennie Hargrove Bill was to do was to work as a deterrent to remind adults, ‘Look, you have a responsibility,’” said Herndon. 

KOB 4 asked the Albuquerque Police Department if officers are doing that extra investigative work.

“We’re pushing it. I know there’s about three cases where I’ve asked, and they’re in communications with the DA’s office over them,” said APD Chief Harold Medina. 

Medina says it’s something he is looking for, and the department is working to engrain in officers.

The 14-year-old suspect is charged with murder. Because it’s so early in the case, the district attorney couldn’t say much. But we’re told that the suspect is locked up.