Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Ron Warnick
QCS Senior Writer 

Suspect says shooting an accident


September 16, 2020

Ron Warnick

In an image from a videoconference Thursday, murder suspect Joshua Braziel, right, listens as Tucumcari Magistrate Judge Timothy O'Quinn presides over an arraignment hearing on the case.

A Tucumcari man held without bond on a murder charge told state police he shot his friend accidentally in his home and previously had pointed a firearm at the man.

Those details and others emerged last week as Joshua Braziel, 30, was arraigned Thursday on counts of first-degree murder and felony possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) after Bryan Youman, 19, of Tucumcari died of a gunshot wound to his head Sept. 4.

District Judge Albert Mitchell on Monday afternoon ordered Braziel held without bond. The 10th Judicial District Attorney’s Office filed a motion to keep Braziel in the Quay County Detention Center before his trial “to reasonably to protect the safety of any other person or the community.”

Assistant prosecutor Heidi Adams urged no bond, noting Braziel’s fatal act was “reckless” and “without provocation,” and he changed his story about it while talking to police.

“The defendant pointed a chambered, loaded pistol at Mr. Youman’s head and asked if he was ready to die,” Adams said, “and, in fact, that is what happened.”

Public defender Anna Aragon urged Braziel be placed under house arrest with an electronic ankle monitor he would remove when at work or caring for his mother. Aragon said she would accept random drug-testing of methamphetamine and marijuana. She said Braziel had no criminal history and was recently promoted at his job at Love’s Travel Center.

“He is a responsible individual except, obviously, handling firearms,” she said. “This is a tragic accident.”

Mitchell rejected Aragon’s arguments and ordered Braziel jailed without bond.

“The major factor is his use of methamphetamine and then picking up a gun and walking around with it,” Mitchell said. “I don’t see any way that can be remedied as far as having something safe in place.”

On Thursday, Aragon entered a plea of not guilty on Braziel’s behalf during a videoconference arraignment in front of Magistrate Judge Timothy O’Quinn.

Braziel seemed disappointed when he learned he wouldn’t be released Thursday.

“I can’t be released tonight?” Braziel asked Aragon.

“You can’t be released because the district court has jurisdiction now on conditions of release,” Aragon said.

The charge against Braziel is an open murder count, which means first-degree murder under more than one possible theory. Those include willful, deliberate and premeditated killing; a killing during an actual or attempted commission of a felony; or a killing by an act that is “greatly dangerous to another's life and evidences a depraved mind which has no regard for human life.”

The scene

Tucumcari Police responded to a shooting at Braziel’s home at 1011 S. Jackson St. at 1:10 p.m. Sept 4. Youman was taken to Trigg Memorial Hospital in Tucumcari, where he died of his injuries.

State police took over the investigation.

According to an affidavit filed by New Mexico State Police investigator Justin Tiemann:

• Tucumcari police officers found Youman on a recliner couch at the home, bleeding from his head. Youman was taken away by emergency medical technicians, and police detained Braziel along with his fiancee, Kristen Countryman. A handgun with a laser-type attachment was found on the floor near the kitchen.

Countryman said during an interview at the New Mexico State Police office in Tucumcari she and Braziel had arrived home at 12:30 p.m. that day after running errands. She said they went to their bedroom to smoke methamphetamine as Youman laid on the couch in the living room.

Countryman told officers Braziel left the bedroom with his 9mm pistol. A short time later, she said she heard a gunshot.

“She then left the room to see where the gunshot came from only to find Mr. Braziel screaming and hollering ‘I’m sorry Brian’ and ‘I’m going to prison,’” Tiemann wrote in the affidavit. Countryman said she saw Youman had a gunshot wound to his head and called 911. She acknowledged meth being in the residence.

• Officers also interviewed George Molinas, who was at the home when the shooting occurred.

“Mr. Molinas informed agents he heard Joshua Braziel say to Bryan Youman, ‘Are you ready to die today’ and heard a loud bang,” Tiemann wrote.

Molinas said he entered the home and saw Youman bleeding from his head and Braziel yelling “I’m going to jail!”

Molinas also said Braziel “likes to mess around with his firearms and is very careless when it comes to handling of his guns,” the affidavit stated.

• Braziel voluntarily spoke with state police. He said he was a friend and co-worker with Youman, who stayed at his home periodically.

When asked about the shooting at his residence, Braziel said he was going to the gun range after taking Countryman to work. Tiemann wrote that Braziel said he didn’t think the gun was loaded, but later said he was aware it was loaded when he pointed it at Youman.

Tiemann also testified in Monday’s hearing Braziel posted on Facebook four days before the shooting he’d taken a test to determine whether he was a sociopath and that he scored high on it.

Contacted by Facebook Messenger, Countryman wrote to the Quay County Sun that Braziel loved Youman “like a little brother and would never do anything to hurt him intentionally. This was an accident, he never meant for this to happen.”

Countryman did not respond to other questions.

The victim

Chan Puls of Logan, Youman’s older brother, said Youman relocated to Quay County about two years ago after hitting “a rough patch” in his home area of Moriarty.

“He was a good kid, man,” Puls said in a phone interview Thursday. “If anybody needed help, he always was there to help. He wasn’t afraid to lend a helping hand to anyone who needed it the most.”

Family members launched a GoFundMe page at https://gf.me/u/yw73uq to help defray Youman’s funeral expenses, with a goal of $5,000.

“We just want our brother/son to have the peace he deserves,” the page stated.

When asked about Youman’s hobbies, Puls said: “As ironic as it sounds, he loved shooting guns. And he loved riding motorcycles.”

Puls said state police hadn’t told him much about the shooting, except it appeared to be accidental.

“That’s rattled in my head,” he said. “I’ve built guns before; my brother has helped me take guns apart and rebuild them. My brother was pretty well known for his gun safety. The whole ordeal really strikes me as odd. Growing up around our family, he was taught gun safety really well.

“Honestly, I really don’t know what happened,” he added. “Regardless, my brother is gone.”


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