The Bisti Arch in the Bisti Wilderness Area near Aztec, New Mexico. Photo: Ekotyk

Navajo Nation leaders offer condolences after two students die in school shooting

Leaders of the Navajo Nation are expressing condolences after two students died in a shooting at a public school near the reservation.

The incident occurred on Thursday morning at Aztec High School in the city of Aztec in New Mexico San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen said a third person, who also died, was suspected to be the shooter.

Despite earlier reports of injuries, Christesen said there weren't any at the school.

“It’s tragic when our children are harmed in violent ways especially on school campuses. We express our condolences to those families who have been harmed,” Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said in a press release. “Our prayers go out to all those affected by this tragedy and everyone throughout San Juan County. We are asking for prayers for these families."

Nearby schools were placed on lock-down as a precaution during the initial law enforcement response. Amber Kanazbah Crotty, a delegate to the Navajo Nation Council, said two of her children, who attend a school in the region, were among those affected.

"As parents in these uncertain times, our worst nightmare is to receive news of an active shooter at our children's school. The helplessness we feel in not being able to protect our children is frustrating," Crotty said in a press release. "We entrust our children to public schools with the expectation of safety and protection, and this pattern of senseless violence has become a serious concern that we must begin to address."

Posted by San Juan County Sheriff's Office, NM on Thursday, December 7, 2017
San Juan County Sheriff's Office on Facebook: December 7, 2017, Press Conference

Law enforcement remained on the scene well into Thursday evening. The high school will remain closed on Friday as the investigation continues.

“It is very unfortunate that school shootings have become more common across our country, but today’s shooting hits closer to home,” said LoRenzo Bates, the speaker of tribal council. “The Navajo Nation Council offers our thoughts and prayers to all of those affected by this tragedy.”

Aztec is just outside of the northeastern border of the the reservation. About 10.6 percent of the population there is Native American, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Aztec is also close to the city of Farmington, where a large number of Native Americans live. Shiprock, a community on the reservation, is also nearby.

“As a former educator and a parent, I sympathize with the families, students, school administrators, and first responders who are enduring such heartache at this time. Together, we must remain strong through our prayers to help our young people get through this tragic situation,” said Tom Chee, who represents Shiprock as a delegate to the council, the tribe's legislative body.

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