By Darrell Todd Maurina
Sheriff surprised at names of those attending event.
Preliminary investigation of Saturday night’s fatal shooting north of Clovis indicates that Justin Tyler Mitchell, 19, was killed with his own pistol by a longtime friend, according to law enforcement officials.
Curry County Sheriff Roger Hatcher said he’s known the victim and his family for years.
“He’s just an everyday kid, he didn’t go out and steal things, tear things up, or want to hurt anybody, but he did like to party and I guess that created a problem in itself,” Hatcher said. “I hope to attend the funeral, depending on when it is, and I’m sure my wife and my kids will be there.”
Lt. Jimmy Glascock of the New Mexico State Police said the reason for the shooting is still under investigation but appears to have followed a party at Mitchell’s home where a number of people were present.
“Based on the information thus far there were approximately 15 to 20 people who had been at the residence; however, there were only four people at the residence when officers arrived,” Glascock said. “Once the officers arrived at the scene, the suspect was there and the victim was deceased with a fatal gunshot wound to the head.”
That suspect is Jacob Roberts, 18, who has been charged with open murder pending further investigation into the circumstances of the shooting.
Hatcher said based on what he knows so far from the investigation, it appears Roberts didn’t know there was a bullet in the gun.
“From what I know of it, J.T. Mitchell did have a gun for protection. I’m not sure how they came to be messing with it,” Hatcher said. “It is my understanding, from the very small part I know, that there were words exchanged and it is my belief that they thought the gun was unloaded. I got this just from the kids I talked to.”
Hatcher said he was surprised to learn the names of the people involved and those present at the party.
“I know they’re all good kids — this is not kids from bad families, not kids that are involved in criminal activity,” said Hatcher. “These are actually some of the better kids of our community who are out doing the same thing I did when I was a kid, and I think this is going to be a life-changing event for a lot of them.”
Hatcher had a warning for those who have firearms at home.
“Please don’t play with guns,” Hatcher said. “They’ve only got one purpose, they work extremely well, and they don’t care. You can’t take the bullet back.”