A University of New Mexico student was released from prison Wednesday after he was accused of conspiring with friends to confront a basketball player from a rival university, resulting in the death of one UNM student and the injury of a player.
A state district judge has denied prosecutors’ request to keep 19-year-old Jonathan Smith in custody pending trial on charges of battery, conspiracy and tampering with evidence. Smith’s lawyer said his client had no criminal record and came from a good home.
Authorities say the plan to get revenge on Mike Peake, a basketball player at New Mexico State University, arose after a brawl at a college football game this fall. The shooting happened hours before a scheduled basketball game between the two schools, and authorities say Peake was allegedly lured to the UNM Albuquerque campus early Saturday.
Police identified Brandon Travis as a University of New Mexico student who was fatally shot and charged with planning an attack on Peake, the starting forward of the Aggies basketball team.
Court documents state that a 17-year-old UNM student conspired with Smith, Travis and another young man to get Peake on campus. There, the men confronted Peake and Travis shot him in the leg. Peake returned fire, killing Travis. The teenager is facing charges of conspiracy in juvenile court.
University officials confirmed Wednesday that Peake, who is expected to recover, is still a member of the team. Although Peake violated curfew rules and the student code of conduct by taking a gun on a team field trip, he was not charged with a crime.
New Mexico State University officials said during Wednesday’s press conference that student athletes who participated in the previous bout had been disciplined, and officials from both schools discussed how to ensure the safety of students and other fans during competitive matches.
“We take these events extremely seriously and are looking at everything we can and should do to avoid this sort of thing in the future,” NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu said.
Arviz was joined by Athletics Director Mario Moccia and Dean of Student Affairs Ann Goodman. Everyone talked about the high demands placed on student athletes and the values NMSU coaches espouse.
Goodman said the New Mexico rivalry is no different than many others across the country when it comes to college athletics, and the fights that break out during such matches are not always motivated by the rivalry itself, but rather by something else.
What sparked the fight in October is part of an ongoing investigation. Still, officials said they were talking to the University of New Mexico about ways to “keep the temperature down” so hostilities could be avoided in future games between the two schools.
According to data collected by UNM and NMSU authorities, it is rare to find weapons on campus.
At the State University of New Mexico in Las Cruces, officials said there were no gun arrests in 2021, only one in 2020 and three in 2019. Over the past four years, 10 cases have been found in UNM Albuquerque dormitories weapons. with only two in 2019 leading to an arrest, subpoena or subpoena.