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Navajo Nation leader denounces homeless killings

July 23, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (AP) — The president of the Navajo Nation on Wednesday denounced the beating deaths of two homeless men who he said were members of the Native American tribe.

Three teenagers have been charged with murder in the Friday night slayings in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Police say the men were attacked while sleeping in a vacant lot and beaten beyond recognition with cinderblocks, bricks and a metal pole.

“It’s beyond senseless that these teens would attack homeless people in this manner,” tribe President Ben Shelly said in a statement. “The Navajo Nation is appalled that this type of attack is happening upon our people. We pray that justice will be carried out in this case.”

A criminal complaint says a 15-year-old boy charged in the case told police that he had been attacking homeless people in Albuquerque for the past year with his 16-year-old brother and an 18-year-old friend.

Police and prosecutors said one of the boys told investigators the trio had been targeting homeless people around Albuquerque for about a year.

Authorities, however, said there was no evidence that the latest attack was racially motivated.

While the killings were “a hateful act ... evidence to date doesn’t indicate a hate crime occurred,” Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said Tuesday.

The medical examiner’s office identified the victims as Allison Gorman and Kee Thompson. The office confirmed the men were Native Americans but didn’t yet know if they were Navajo.

New Mexico has 21 pueblos and tribes, and homeless advocates in Albuquerque say they see a number of Native Americans on the streets.

“There are spots in town where the majority of homeless people are drunk Native Americans,” said Jeremy Reynalds, president of Joy Junction homeless shelter.

He says many are beaten and abused.

In interviews with police, the teens acknowledged targeting homeless people but “didn’t specifically say they were targeting Navajo people,” said police Sgt. Simon Drobik. “That never came up.”

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry’s office said he will meet with top Navajo officials on Thursday about the killings. Berry scheduled the meeting at Shelly’s request.

Update hourly