In the past few days, police have been able to piece together what happened early Saturday morning when Nehemiah Griego allegedly killed both his parents and his younger siblings with an AR-15 rifle. Now, the extended family of the young man is finally breaking their silence. Nehemiah Griego's uncle, Eric, defended his nephew in a statement released to KRQE-TV saying, "There is so much more to the Nehemiah we know than what the media is portraying. We know him as a bright, curious, and incredibly talented young man." The family statement seems to be referring to local news stations and publications running with the theory that Griego had been plagued with suicidal thoughts all of his young life.
The statement also included the line "He was a brother, nephew, grandson, and cousin." The omission of "son" is particularly jarring because Griego allegedly killed his father and three siblings after he killed his mother in her bed. Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston was quoted by the AP as saying, "The motive, as articulated by the suspect, was purely that he was frustrated with his mother ... He did not give any further explanation."
As we reported on Monday, there were reports that Griego had loaded weapons into a vehicle and planned to shoot up his local Walmart before he was coerced out of the idea at the time by "a friend." It turns out that the friend was his girlfriend. "Griego texted a picture of his dead mother to his 12-year-old girlfriend, then spent much of Saturday with the girl and her family," reported the AP and according to ABC, police also are considering charging the girlfriend with a crime.
Without taking a stance, the family statement also address the ongoing gun control debate. Griego has made his way into gun conversations because police say he used an AR-15—the same gun mass shooters James Holmes and Adam Lanza had used. "What we do agree on is that those who wish to score political points should not use a confused, misguided, 15-year old boy to make their case," the statement continues.
Griego has five older siblings who were not living at the home at the time of the shooting and were unharmed, reports ABC. Griego is expected to charges as an adult for murder and child abuse resulting in death.
Here's the full statement:
“Our family is heartbroken over this senseless tragedy. We have not been able to comprehend what led to this incredibly sad situation. However, we are deeply concerned about the portrayal in some media of Nehemiah as some kind of a monster.
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.
There is so much more to the Nehemiah we know than what the media is portraying. We know him as a bright, curious, and incredibly talented young man. He was a brother, nephew, grandson, and cousin.
From the time he was a young boy, his father Greg supported his love for music. Thanks to his interest, practice and natural ability, Nehemiah has become a very accomplished musician. He plays guitar, drums and bass. For years he has played at youth and other church services at Calvary and elsewhere.
The idea that he was a loner also has been manufactured by the media and those who simply did not know him. He had many friends at Calvary where he spent most of his free time playing basketball or music . Like his father, who was a champion wrestler and coach, Nehemiah also competed in wrestling tournaments throughout the state and country.
His parents were always involved at Calvary, and Nehemiah shared their commitment to community service. He accompanied his father on missions to Mexico, where they helped local faith communities. He helped with Calvary’s youth ministry and played his guitar or drums whenever someone needed him, including his aunt’s wedding. At home, he helped care for his younger siblings and the many animals the family kept.
Like his great grandfather, grandfather, father, and several aunts, uncles and cousins who are either veterans or on active duty, he wanted to serve his country. Because of this long family tradition of military service, he wanted to enlist when he was old enough. He dreamed of attending NMMI and talked of studying engineering or history. The pictures of him being circulated in his dad’s old fatigues were part of his interest in someday being a soldier.
To be clear, our family has differing views on gun rights and gun control. What we do agree on is that those who wish to score political points should not use a confused, misguided, 15-year old boy to make their case.
We ask those in the media and those who would use the media to make their political case, to not use Nehemiah as a pawn for ratings or to score political points. He is a troubled young man who made a terrible decision that will haunt him and his family forever.
Five lives have been senselessly and needlessly ended. Ruining one more without trying to get to the bottom of what really happened and more importantly --why - -would be equally tragic.”
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.