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Local
Local police search for suspect in fatal shooting
  • Updated

Roswell police are looking for a local 19-year-old charged with murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting death of a teenager about a week ago.

The Roswell Police Department is asking for the public’s assistance as investigators seek to locate Daniel Flores.

According to a news release from RPD spokesman Todd Wildermuth, the RPD’s Criminal Investigations Division has identified Flores as the person believed to have shot three males shortly before 3 a.m. on July 24 at a house in the 1400 block of East Tilden Street.

Damyn Rodriguez, 15, died at the scene. The two other gunshot victims, ages 15 and 19, were transported to a hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

Two teenage girls also were present with the victims during the incident, according to the RPD news release, but were not injured despite multiple shots being fired inside and outside the residence.

An arrest warrant was issued Friday for Flores, and he has been charged in Chaves County Magistrate Court with first-degree murder, as well as aggravated battery and aggravated assault.

Flores is described as about 5-feet, 9-inches tall and weighing about 200 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes.

Anyone with information that could help locate Flores is asked to call the Roswell Police Department at 575-624-6770.


Local
Federal relief funds formally accepted by county

Chaves County commissioners formally accepted about $12.5 million in federal coronavirus relief funding on Thursday, and the county now will make decisions about how to use the large chunk of the money that remains.

The funds come to the county from the U.S. Treasury as a result of the $350 billion Coronavirus State and Local Governments Fiscal Recovery Funds program included as part of the American Rescue Plan Act relief package, signed into law in March 2021.

The four municipalities in Chaves County received a total of $12.1 million, with their money divided into 2021 and 2022 payments as well.

Commissioners voted 5-0 to accept the funds during their Thursday meeting at the Chaves County Administrative Center.

The first half of the county funding arrived in June 2021, and the second half arrived this June. Chaves County Chief Financial Officer Anabel Barraza said that the county has not obligated most of the money yet because it wanted to wait to learn from Treasury Department guidance exactly what accepting and using the money would entail. But it did use about $1.2 million to cover governmental operations, as allowed by the Treasury Department, due to the county's loss of taxes or other revenues during the pandemic.

“Right now, we are currently working with the Finance Committee and we are looking at possible projects in addition to considering covering governmental operations,” she said.

She said one of the ideas under consideration is improving broadband services to county residents without connections or high-speed service.

“We want to make sure students and people working at home have the speeds they need to do their work,” she said.

The county has been working for about six months with Finley Engineering to complete a study of broadband access throughout the county, and Barraza said that the intent is to know by the end of the year exactly where upgrades and new connections are needed.

A second project for the funding could be allocated to building the new Department of Health offices for the county. The county has purchased property at East Buena Vista Street and South Garden Avenue to construct a new building. It will replace the existing structure at 200 E. Chisum St. Built in 1977, county officials have said that building is too outdated for current needs. State law requires that counties provide public health facilities.

The project has been estimated to cost about $3.5 million. The county intends to apply for a Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to pay up to $750,000 toward the building. It also has placed the project on its top priority list for state and other public funding for the future. In 2022, it received $75,000 from a state capital outlay award for architectural design work.

Another possible use of the funds, according to Barraza, is to allocate more to cover governmental operations to compensate for pandemic-related revenue losses.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.


Juno Ogle Photo

Makenzie Kormendy leads her younger sister Kimber through the barrel race on her pony Peso during Tuesday evening's 4-H and FFA rodeo at the Chaves County Fair. A week of activities related to the fair, including Tuesday's rodeo, a horse show, the exhibition of livestock and pets and the judging of projects, concluded with Friday's junior livestock sale. For more information on the sale, see section E of the July 31 newspaper.


Local
NMMI receives grant for new leadership initiative
  • Updated

The New Mexico Military Institute has received a $50,000 grant from the New Mexico Higher Education Department to help support the first phase of its new Leadership and Character Development program.

The program was developed and introduced for the Institute primarily by Commandant Col. Thomas L. Tate, Counseling Center Director Teresa Gray and Institutional Research Officer Michele Bates of the Office of the Academic Dean.

But Tate and Gray emphasized that the first phase was implemented as quickly as it was because a significant number of faculty and staff agreed to volunteer to work with cadets and the program.

The first part of the four-semester program started in January with all 750-plus cadets participating for the semester, no matter how long they had attended the Institute.

“This was something that every cadet got,” Gray said. “It wasn't specific to crisis or something that they would come to the counseling center for. It was something that we thought was foundational, kind of emotional and behavioral health skills that all people could develop and use.”

For the current fall 2022 semester and going forward, only Recruits-in-Training, or RATs, the cadets experiencing their first semester on campus or Post, will participate in the first phase. The cadets who already have participated in Phase 1 will advance to the second and subsequent phases.

Phase 1 focuses on intrapersonal skills and self-awareness. The nine components of that include such areas as identifying a person's authentic values and behaviors, avoiding or dealing with sexual harassment, learning to regulate emotions and reflecting on and recovering from mistakes.

Tate and Bates said they recognized that the skills and practices of Phase 1, which encourage a proactive approach to individual wellness, fit well with the New Mexico Higher Education Department Mental and Behavioral Health Initiative. The grant program is for public and tribal higher educational institutions. For 2022, the department awarded $1 million in total, with 20 programs at 14 different institutions awarded $50,000 each.

“Many college students experience unexpected life events, and balancing work, school and obligations on top of keeping up with their classes can be challenging. Investing in these vital resources is important to ensuring that students have the support they need to stay in school and succeed academically,” said Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez in announcing the grant awards publicly on July 18.

Higher Education Deputy Secretary Patricia Trujillo added that difficult life circumstances, such as experiencing losses due to the coronavirus pandemic or wildfires, increase students' needs for mental and behavioral health support.

The origins of the Institute program date back years, while Tate was earning his doctorate in education in Higher Education Administration. His dissertation on leadership involved studying theoretical concepts from leadership experts as well as personally interacting with leaders at U.S. military academies and military schools.

Joining the Institute in fall 2020, he had a vision of creating a Leadership and Character Development program for all cadets, but thought it probably would be introduced in a couple of years.

Then, in winter 2021, Gray and some of her colleagues decided that some type of mental health resiliency program for cadets should be offered, as they had seen larger numbers of cadets seek help from the counseling center as they dealt with the challenges presented by the pandemic. Gray said she and her coworkers thought they could implement a program gradually, reaching all cadets in about four years.

But when Tate heard Gray and others discuss their plans, he decided to combine his idea with theirs and fast-track implementation of the Leadership and Character Development program.

Gray explained that, as a boarding school for youth typically in the age range of 14 to 22, the Institute felt a responsibility to function as surrogate parents and help them develop ways to cope with life's stresses.

For example, Gray said, cadets can learn about dealing with heartbreak through emotional regulation, or managing how they think about it and how they deal with their feelings.

“Having them understand this is something that passes and talking about that and having them understand and kind of plan for that ahead of time helps them be more resilient when it comes to these things that happen in life that can really set them back,” Gray said.

At this point, the Leadership and Character Development program is a non-credit, mandatory program. Cadets are introduced to new concepts in their phase of the program on a weekly basis during a group lecture. Later in the week, they break into small-group seminars led by faculty, staff and senior cadets to learn more about themselves and the concepts.

Gray and Tate said the principles, skills and behaviors learned in Phase 1 will be utilized and further developed in the subsequent phases: Phase 2, interpersonal, which at the Institute can align to troop leadership and “followship” duties and responsibilities; Phase 3, or team building; and Phase 4, organizational leadership and community engagement.

Gray added that cadets are intended to develop a “servant leadership” attitude when it comes to Phase 4 and that cadets are encouraged to incorporate cultural awareness into all the program's components.

“We serve such a variety of cadets,” she said. “We are an international school. We have native populations from New Mexico and Southwest and cadets from all over the world.”

Tate added that the four-phase program will support existing academic curriculum related to leadership as well and that he considers it essential that the program links theory with practice.

Gray and Tate said that they will use the grant funds to support training, preparation and assessment needed for Phase 1. Gray added that data collection and assessments will occur for both spring and fall 2022 semesters to determine how Phase 1 has affected cadets and the Institute.

“The grant is for Phase 1, but the residuals — the second- and third-order effects — are going to be long-lasting," Tate said, "because it is going to span over not only four semesters but be reinforced through a cadet experience at the Institute. That's what's really key about this program.”

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com

[Note: This post has been updated to correct the name of the Higher Education cabinet secretary.]


Local
Special Olympics director takes on multi-faceted role

Perry McCreary took over leadership of Special Olympics for the Roswell area at the beginning of this year.

“I’m still learning,” McCreary said about assuming the role as district director.

He explained that some of his other responsibilities are “a partner, a coach and a manager.” 

Sometimes the athletes “also need extra encouragement,” he explained.  

Special Olympics is the largest worldwide sports organization for people with disabilities — both intellectual and physical.

McCreary has been involved with Special Olympics for about 12 years. He began by partnering with his stepson, Keagan Burkhart, 26, so Burkhart could golf with the local team. The young athlete has Down syndrome.

“It keeps Keagan active. It gives him something productive to do,” McCreary said about his stepson’s involvement in Special Olympics.

Through sports, the athletes become disciplined, responsible, better at communication and learn to work with others. Other sports Burkhart plays — or has played — include softball, swimming and bocce ball. 

The local team has about 30 members playing a variety of games. Strong sports for these local athletes include golf, softball and bowling, McCreary said.

The organization continues to fundraise so athletes can have needed equipment as well as appropriate attire and uniforms. 

Plans for the local team include adding more team sports in the future, according to McCreary.

Most people don’t realize Special Olympics athletes train all year long and that specific sports are seasonal. Team members could be training and playing various sports throughout the year.

The need for fundraising is “perpetual,” McCreary said.

Money donated also provides the athletes with transportation to events. Some games require participants be driven to the venue. That can mean having to charter a bus. And lodging could be required for the athletes as well when they compete far away from home.

For example, the Special Olympics New Mexico Four Corners Invitational will be held August 19-20 in Farmington, which is nearly six hours away from Roswell.

Cost for these local athletes to participate will be about $12,000. McCreary said fundraising efforts to cover expenses are continuing. The athletes are also out in the community helping raise money for their activities.

During the New Mexico State Summer Games, held this past May in Albuquerque, six members of the local bocce ball team received medals. Among them was Burkhart, who received a silver medal.

“It’s so much fun to watch their excitement when they earn ribbons or medals,” McCreary said about the athletes.

He also pointed out how these athletes are just as serious about competing as other athletes.

"What they want is inclusion," McCreary stressed. “They want the same opportunities as anyone without disabilities would have.”

Some of the organization’s sports are played by teams composed of both disabled and non-disabled players. These mixed teams are referred to as being “unified.”

The Special Olympics organization explains that the disabled athletes and the players partnering with them who aren’t disabled all benefit from the experience: “Athletes improve their social and behavioral skills while showcasing their potential, and partners develop a broader sense of compassion and understanding."

All of the volunteers try not to treat these athletes any different than athletes who aren’t disabled.

No one is paid to work for the local organization, including McCreary. His profession is as operations manager in New Mexico and Texas for Elkhorn Land & Title, LLC. The work provides him with the flexibility needed to also handle his volunteer efforts for the Special Olympics, he said.

Most of the athletes also have jobs or attend school.

“Their goal is to be able to do everything everybody would do,” he said about the athletes. "There are challenges, but it’s worth it.”

Lizzy Owen, who for 23 years was the local coordinator of Special Olympics, said McCreary has another quality that makes him a good leader.

“It’s patience. Perry is very patient. It’s one of his greatest strengths,” Owen said. He’s good with the athletes, partners and other volunteers, Owen pointed out.

For details about donating, volunteering or otherwise helping the local Special Olympics, email McCreary at pmccreary02@gmail.com.

Terri Harber can be reached at 575-662-7710, ext. 308 or at reporter03@rdrnews.com.


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