Teen pleads no contest in Washington Middle School shooting

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Juan Saucedo Jr. pleaded no contest to second-degree murder Thursday. He is a 14-year-old middle school student charged with shooting and killing his classmate, Bennie Hargrove, in August 2021.

According to the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office, Saucedo Jr. will remain in custody until he is 21 – the maximum sentence allowed for a child under New Mexico law.

“This was a terrible tragedy for everyone involved,” District Attorney Sam Bregman said. “It changed the Hargrove family forever and devastated hundreds of children, parents, school faculty and the community.  We hope this brings some closure to the Hargrove family.”

Bennie’s family members told the court he is deeply loved and missed every single day and said what hurts even more is that a child did this to another child.

“No closure, just peace of rest for Bennie, but no closure,” Vanessa Sawyer, Bennie’s grandmother, said. “Until he’s 21 is fine but it’s only five years. That hurts. It pierces the heart.”

Saucedo Jr. will stay in CYFD custody at the juvenile detention center.

“He’s gonna be 21 to do as he pleases, and my grandson is not,” Sawyer said. “I’m just trying to stay strong for my grandkids and the rest of my family. There’s a big family here and I gotta stay strong for all of them right now.”

DA Bregman said going to trial would have put young witnesses through more trauma – for the same outcome.

“It puts a lot of fellow students at a very young age – we’re talking 14 years old now, 12 and 13 at the time – it puts them all through a traumatic experience and the likelihood of getting any different result is minute,” Bregman said.

Bregman and Sawyer have both fought to make Bennie’s Bill, which would hold parents accountable for their children accessing their unsecured guns, law by the end of this legislative session.

“I’m proud and I’m excited I’m doing things and meeting people that I never dreamed I would,” Sawyer said.

Bregman said that without a law like this on the books, the district attorney’s office can’t charge Saucedo’s parents in connection to the Washington Middle School shooting.

“Whether or not we dig into the evidence, whether or not we could claim there was a negligent handling of that firearm — is it as important as the fact that there was no law to charge him under? And that’s why Rep. Herndon’s law is so important,” Begman said.

Bennie might be gone, but backers of Bennie’s Bill say it’s a way for him to live on.

“Please help prevent gun violence and bullying,” Sawyer said. “I’m proud of Bennie and what he’s left behind.”

Bennie’s Bill passed the House floor early last month. It just passed through its second Senate committee Thursday.

Track Bennie’s Bill (House Bill 9) during the legislative session.