Days after a New Mexico 18-year-old gunned down three elderly women in an indiscriminate shooting rampage, police have not yet publicly discussed a motive or revealed why a teenager hours shy from graduation would commit such a horrific crime.
He killed Shirley Voita, 79, Melody Ivie, 73, and Gwendolyn Schofield, 97, who were all in cars. Schofield was Ivie’s mother. Armed with three weapons, including an AR-15 rifle he legally purchased, he stepped out of his father’s Farmington home Monday morning and unleashed a hail of bullets upon neighboring houses and passing cars before officers fatally shot him.
Authorities have said that interviews with his family and a note found in his pocket indicated that the student had mental health issues. Friends and family members who spoke to NBC News about Beau Wilson said the teenager constantly fell behind in classes and struggled to deal with his parents’ ongoing divorce.
One particular point of strife in his life, they said, was leaving his high school’s varsity wrestling team in late February. The exit was due in large part to a strained relationship with his head coach, according to Daxton Allison, one of Wilson’s former teammates, and Brent Stover, a Farmington High School wrestling coach who recently resigned.
Wilson’s mother, Lorry Rodriguez, said her son relied on the team for a sense of purpose and peace as his home and school life crumbled.
“His life was going to practice, and when he didn’t have that, he had nothing,” Rodriguez said. “He didn’t have nothing to work for. That’s all he knew.”
Rodriguez blamed herself for not foreseeing the violence that unfolded. She said she knew Wilson had purchased a firearm, but she hadn’t had any concerns about it.
“How did I not know? I ask myself that,” she said.
Wilson became the latest shooter to terrorize a community in a nation regularly plagued by gun violence, with shootings in recent weeks at a mall in Texas, a bank in Louisville and a Christian school in Nashville. Authorities said he fatally shot Ivie and Schofield after they stopped their vehicle to render aid to Voita.
A doorbell camera caught Wilson screaming “come and kill me” during the barrage, police said. He was wearing a bulletproof vest that he discarded before officers fatally shot him.
At a news conference Thursday, Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said he believed Wilson, in his final moments, “made a decision that he’s going to stand and fight it out until he’s killed.”
Mass shootings and suicides in general are commonly preceded by some sort of a life stressor, including job loss or a romantic rejection, but there is usually a combination of factors at play, according to Dr. Ragy Girgis, an associate professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry and New York State Psychiatric Institute.
In late February, Allison and Stover said Wilson chose to leave the team on his own because he could no longer stand the pressure from the head coach.
The coach told NBC News that Wilson was not on the team for the last part of the school year due to “disciplinary” reasons, but declined to comment further on those reasons as well as his relationship with Wilson and the claims about their apparent discord.
“What happened between Beau and I stays between Beau and I,” he said.
The day he left, Stover said he met up with Wilson and begged him to stick it out. But he said the teen was “mentally beat down” at that point.
For six weeks after that, Wilson stopped coming to school, Allison said.
“Wrestling is always what kept him going and steady-minded,” said Allison, 18, who has known Wilson for more than a dozen years. “It was an outlet for him. When that got taken from him, he kind of just fell off the Earth.”
A person close to Wilson, who asked to remain anonymous, said Wilson’s exit from the team “absolutely crushed him.”
“It was his identity. It was his happy place, where he didn’t have to worry about things and felt included,” the person said. “And then that’s gone instantly, while he’s having this other hard time. I’m sure this exacerbated this tremendously.”
Artie Martinez, 36, Wilson’s older brother, said he was shocked that his brother stopped wrestling in his senior year, “which could have been a big year for him.” Artie Martinez, who lives in Arizona and was not intimately familiar with his brother’s struggles, said he also wrestled on the same team and left.
“When you’re that age, it seems like the world to you,” he said.
Farmington Municipal School District spokesperson Roberto Taboada said the district could not discuss if Wilson had possible disciplinary actions or absences. Taboada said school officials had spoken to the head coach, who described to them a “regular relationship with his student-athlete.”
Monday’s onslaught caught the team off guard. While Wilson had previously made remarks about harming himself, he never mentioned wanting to hurt anyone else, Allison and Stover said.
Wilson’s mother said her son was never diagnosed with a mental illness but that he was “shy,” “secluded” and had social anxiety among his peers. She said her son never mentioned to her that he wanted to harm himself.
To his former team members, Wilson’s mental health struggles were often visible, but the teenager didn’t like to share details about his personal life, they said.
“I tried to talk to him about it, but he wouldn’t open up about it,” said 18-year-old Ivan Smith Jr., a former team captain who just graduated.
Stover said he was in such disbelief to hear the news that day that he called Wilson’s phone immediately. “It’s evil, it’s unforgivable,” he said. “But I think it was a suicide by cop.”
Stover said he learned after the shooting that Wilson had reached out to two other teammates at some point before the shooting and was “talking crazy” in those conversations.
Hebbe said his department is serving subpoenas for school records. With no other statements, the police chief said the note found in Wilson’s pocket is “about the best we’ve got” to determine a motive.
“I feel a little lost. I’m just wondering why,” Stover said. “He must have just felt like he was on his own.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also call the network, previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.