15-Year-Old Massacre Suspect Nehemiah Griego’s Uncle: “Something Went Terribly Wrong”

Nehemiah Griego is accused of shooting both of his parents, his 9-year-old brother, and his 5-year-old and 2-year-old sisters at their home in Albuquerque.

Photo of Nehemiah, released by the Griego Family. Handout / Reuters

Nehemiah Griego is the New Mexico teen who reportedly gunned down his mother, Sarah Griego, his siblings, Zephania (9), Jael (5), and Angelina (2), then, hours later, his father, Greg Griego. He reportedly planned on killing more, and hoped to die in a shoot-out with police. A friend talked him out of it and convinced Nehemiah to join him at the church where his father had been a pastor. The 15-year-old eventually confessed to the church’s security guard, who called 911.

It appears that the guns used in the shooting were owned by Nehemiah’s father, Greg, who police said taught him how to use guns. Greg was a gang-member-turned-pastor who was a voluntary chaplain at the local fire department and an active prison minister. It’s also reported that Nehemiah was homeschooled by his mother, Sarah.

Police say Nehemiah had been planning an attack for some time. “The information that Nehemiah had contemplated going to the local Walmart and participating in a shooting in there is accurate,” police said. “There is no information at all that he went to church to cause anyone bodily harm there. The suspect also contemplated killing his girlfriend’s parents.” The police also reported that Nehemiah “was involved heavily in games, violent games, it’s what he was into. He was quite excited as he discussed this with our investigators.”

Nehemiah’s uncle is former New Mexico State Senator Eric Griego, who released a statement obtained by KOB Eyewitness News. The statement asked that the “confused, misguided, 15-year-old boy” not be used as a “pawn for ratings or to score political points.”

The family said that it is clear that “something went terribly wrong,” and concluded that “[Nehemiah] is a troubled young man who made a terrible decision that will haunt him and his family forever. Five lives have been senselessly and needlessly ended. Ruining one more without trying to get to the bottom of what really happened and more importantly — why — would be equally tragic.”

Nehemiah Griego’s mugshot. Bernalillo County Sheriff's Deptartment / AP

Here is the full statement from the Griego family:

Our family is heartbroken over this senseless tragedy. We have not been able to comprehend what led to this incredibly sad situation. However, we are deeply concerned about the portrayal in some media of Nehemiah as some kind of a monster.

It is clear to those of us who know and love him that something went terribly wrong. Whether it was a mental breakdown or some deeper undiagnosed psychological issue, we can’t be sure yet. What we do know is that none of us, even in our wildest nightmare, could have imagined that he could do something like this.

There is so much more to the Nehemiah we know than what the media is portraying. We know him as a bright, curious, and incredibly talented young man. He was a brother, nephew, grandson, and cousin.

From the time he was a young boy, his father Greg supported his love for music. Thanks to his interest, practice and natural ability, Nehemiah has become a very accomplished musician. He plays guitar, drums and bass. For years he has played at youth and other church services at Calvary and elsewhere.

The idea that he was a loner also has been manufactured by the media and those who simply did not know him. He had many friends at Calvary where he spent most of his free time playing basketball or music. Like his father, who was a champion wrestler and coach, Nehemiah also competed in wrestling tournaments throughout the state and country.

His parents were always involved at Calvary, and Nehemiah shared their commitment to community service. He accompanied his father on missions to Mexico, where they helped local faith communities. He helped with Calvary’s youth ministry and played his guitar or drums whenever someone needed him, including his aunt’s wedding. At home, he helped care for his younger siblings and the many animals the family kept.

Like his great grandfather, grandfather, father, and several aunts, uncles and cousins who are either veterans or on active duty, he wanted to serve his country. Because of this long family tradition of military service, he wanted to enlist when he was old enough. He dreamed of attending NMMI and talked of studying engineering or history. The pictures of him being circulated in his dad’s old fatigues were part of his interest in someday being a soldier.

To be clear, our family has differing views on gun rights and gun control. What we do agree on is that those who wish to score political points should not use a confused, misguided, 15-year old boy to make their case.

We ask those in the media and those who would use the media to make their political case, to not use Nehemiah as a pawn for ratings or to score political points. He is a troubled young man who made a terrible decision that will haunt him and his family forever.

Five lives have been senselessly and needlessly ended. Ruining one more without trying to get to the bottom of what really happened and more importantly – why – would be equally tragic.


The entrance to the Griego home. Susan Montoya Bryan / AP

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