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Nehemiah Griego's father came home to family massacre in New Mexico

January 23, 2013|By Matt Pearce
  • Nehemiah Griego, 15, is accused of killing his parents and three siblings.
Nehemiah Griego, 15, is accused of killing his parents and three siblings. (Bernalillo County Sheriff's…)

Greg Griego's wife, a son and two daughters were already dead. One of his other sons, Nehemiah, 15, was waiting for him in a bathroom with a high-velocity AR-15 rifle, police say.

Greg Griego, who'd turned around a troubled life and involvement with gangs to become a chaplain, apparently had spent his last hours helping the homeless in Albuquerque, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

He was returning home from an overnight shift at the Albuquerque Rescue Mission when he was killed early Saturday morning, the newspaper reported.

Nehemiah Griego is charged with killing his mother, father and three siblings. 

The teenager waived his right to an arraignment in adult court Tuesday and was being held without bond. Relatives have asked the public not to politicize the shooting, which has resonated with the nation amid the debate over guns, particularly military-style, semiautomatic rifles. The shootings add to the small portion of gun crimes committed with rifles.

Greg Griego's responsibilities at the homeless mission weren't clear; the mission did not respond to a phone message left Wednesday morning. According to the mission's website, it offers emergency overnight shelter to families with children 10 or younger during the winter.

Griego had young children of his own at home: Zephania, 9; Jael, 5; and Angelina, 2. They died of gunshot wounds to the head in an early-morning rampage that their brother allegedly contemplated for a week, officials said.

According to court documents, Nehemiah Griego took a .22-caliber rifle from his parents' closet, shot his mother, Sarah, as she slept, then shot his 9-year brother who was in bed next to her. The teen said he then "lost his sense of conscience" and shot his two younger sisters in a nearby bedroom after they started crying, police said.

Police said in a statement that Greg Griego was not a convicted felon and that his guns had been purchased legally.

Nehemiah Griego told officials he loaded weapons into the family van and  hoped to carry out an assault on a Wal-Mart, then die in a shootout with police, according to court documents. Instead he went to church.

There, he told his girlfriend and her grandmother that his family had died in a car accident, and a church security guard called 911, officials said.

Police also said the teenager, who is being charged as an adult, had texted a photo of his mother's body to his girlfriend.

Nehemiah Griego had "many friends" and spent much of his free time playing basketball and playing music, according to a statement from relatives published by KRQE-TV on its website Tuesday night.

In the statement, relatives asked the public and the media "to not use Nehemiah as a pawn for ratings or to score political points." It was reportedly issued by Eric Griego, Nehemiah's uncle and a former Democratic state senator.

"It is clear to those of us who know and love him that something went terribly wrong," the statement said. "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."

The statement added: "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."

matt.pearce@latimes.com

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