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One-game suspension doesn't match gravity of shooting incident

A one-game suspension. Really?

That’s what New Mexico State University officials determined was the proper discipline for three basketball players who broke curfew early Nov. 19 to take possession of and hide evidence in a fatal shooting on the campus of the University of New Mexico.

Police records say NMSU player Mike Peake was lured to UNM the morning of the highly touted NMSU-UNM rivalry game by a group of UNM students seeking revenge for an earlier brawl at the Lobo-Aggie football game. UNM student Brandon Travis was one of three planning to “jump” Peake. When they confronted Peake, Travis pulled out a gun and fired as Peake ran. Peake also pulled out a gun. When the shootout ended, Travis’ injuries proved fatal and Peake was shot in the leg.

Peake called his teammates for help. They quickly responded, showing up at the scene in a yellow Camaro. They retrieved Peake’s gun and bloodied laptop and sped off. It would be 12 hours before the Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol would be turned over to police.

One game suspension? Really?

And what about the NMSU coaches? After initial interviews from police, they had the team hop on a bus and head out of town.

This wasn’t a game ball, an ice pack or pair of sneakers left behind. It was a weapon used in a homicide just hours earlier. No reports have yet indicated clearly when assistant coach Dominique Taylor learned the gun was in one of the player’s rooms. Taylor even told police he wasn’t sure in whose room the gun was found. Didn’t the coaches know what rooms the players were assigned?

The frustration of State Police is apparent in body camera video. While en route to Las Cruces to retrieve the pistol from the bus, a State Police officer had Taylor text him a photo of the gun to make sure it really was back in Albuquerque at the hotel where the team had been staying.

The team had been at the Double Tree until 11:30 a.m., when somebody at NMSU gave the order to send the team bus back to Las Cruces — much earlier than scheduled. A State Police officer later followed, lights and siren on.

At the rest stop where the bus had pulled over, police recovered Peake’s computer tablet, but not his cellphone or Smith & Wesson. Police were told the gun was back at the Albuquerque hotel. Coach Taylor finally handed it over about 3:45 p.m.

The cellphone, mysteriously, ended up at the home of an NMSU Athletics Department administrator in Las Cruces. It was recovered later on Nov. 19. No one from NMSU has said how it wound up there or why it wasn’t turned over to police earlier.

The NMSU men’s basketball program appears out of control. Serious questions swirl around the coaching staff’s actions following the tragedy. In fact, shouldn’t at least part of the coaching staff be benched until some of these questions are answered?

The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office is investigating the players’ and coaches’ actions surrounding the shooting’s aftermath.

But the Aggies keep dribbling along as if not much has happened.

A one-game suspension? Really? How does a single-game suspension during the Aggies’ pre-conference schedule meet the gravity of the situation?

— Albuquerque Journal

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