(ABC News) -- Relatives of a New Mexico teenager
accused of killing his mother, father and younger siblings with an assault
rifle, then telling police he hoped to shoot up a Walmart, are described as
stunned by his actions and "heartbroken over this senseless tragedy."
Though surviving relatives conceded in an unsigned "family statement" that
15-year-old Nehemiah Griego is a "troubled young man," the statement also
described him as an outgoing boy who loved music and hoped one day to serve in
"We know him as a bright, curious and incredibly talented young man. He was a
brother, nephew, grandson and cousin," said the statement, obtained by the ABC News affiliate KOAT in Albuquerque from former New
Mexico state Sen. Eric Griego, the suspect's uncle.
"We are deeply concerned about the portrayal in some media of Nehemiah as
some kind of a monster," said the statement. "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."
Nehemiah Griego, the
15-year-old son of an Albuquerque pastor, had plans to kill his family, his
12-year-old girlfriend's family and local Walmart shoppers for weeks before he
acted on the impulse on Sunday, according to police.
"Nehemiah said after killing five of his family members he reloaded the
weapons so that he could drive to a populated area to murder more people," read
a police report from the incident released Tuesday.
"Nehemiah stated he wanted to shoot people at random and eventually be killed
while exchanging gunfire with law enforcement," the report said.
However, after allegedly killing his family members, Griego ended up spending
most of his day with his girlfriend rather than going to the Walmart, Bernalillo
County Sheriff Dan Houston said Tuesday.
Griego later was arrested and is expected to face adult charges of murder and
child abuse resulting in death. He waived his right to arraignment in adult
court Tuesday and a judge ordered him held without bond.
The district attorney's office and Griego's public defender now are preparing
to face a grand jury, KOAT reported.
"We never had a case like this, as far as I know, in the state of New
Mexico," District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said, "so I can't compare this to
any other case."
Police also are considering charging Griego's girlfriend, who they have not
Griego has five older siblings who were not living at the home at the time of
the shooting and were unharmed.
Eric Griego, the uncle who released the family statement, also released
family photos late Tuesday, including one of his nephew in a tuxedo at a wedding
and another of him playing a drum kit.
Eric Griego is the brother of Greg Griego, a former church pastor at Calvary
Church in Albuquerque who also is the father Nehemiah Griego is accused of
"From the time he was a young boy, his father Greg supported his love for
music," the family statement said. "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," the statement said. "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."
The statement noted that several family members were military veterans.
"Pictures of [Nehemiah Griego] being circulated in his dad's old fatigues
were part of his interest in someday being a soldier," the family statement
The shooting spree began shortly around 1 a.m. on Sunday, when Griego
allegedly snuck into his parents' bedroom while his mother, Sara Griego, was
asleep. There he raided the closet where the family kept their guns, and
immediately used a .22 rifle to kill her, according to the Bernalillo County
Griego's 9-year-old brother was sleeping with his mother at the time and woke
up. When Griego told the boy his mother was dead, the youngster didn't believe
him, according to a police report.
"So Nehemiah picked up his mother's head to show his brother her bloody
face," the report said. "Nehemiah stated his brother became so upset so he shot
his brother in the head."
He then went into his sisters' bedroom, police said.
"Nehemiah stated when he entered he noticed that his sisters were crying and
he shot them in the head," the police report said.
The girls were 5 and 2 years old.
The teenager waited for his father to come from his overnight shift working
at a nearby rescue mission. When his father, Greg Griego, walked into the home
around 5 a.m., unaware of what had taken place, Griego shot him multiple times
with the AR-15 rifle, Houston said Tuesday.
Besides being a former pastor at Calvary Church, Greg Griego worked as a
chaplain at a local jail where he counseled convicts. The family was very
involved in the church, according to its website.
The complaint said Nehemiah Griego took a photo of his dead mother and "sent
it to his girlfriend."
Griego then packed up the guns, including two shotguns, as well as ammunition
for the rifles, and planned to drive to a Walmart to shoot additional people --
but ended up at his girlfriend's house instead, Houston said.
Around 8 p.m. on Sunday, the pair drove to Calvary Church. Griego told people
his family had died in a car crash. Someone on the church's staff then called
911, Houston said.
"At this time, Nehemiah had been contemplating this for some time. The
information that Nehemiah had contemplated going to the local Walmart and
participating in a shooting in there is accurate," Houston 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 girlfriend's name was not released, but police are investigating whether
to press any charges against her, Houston said. Houston said she had some
knowledge about the deaths during the day Sunday.
Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to the Griego home around 9:15 p.m. on
Sunday and arrived 10 minutes later, where they found the five bodies.
Nehemiah Griego told investigators he came home around 5 a.m. that morning
and found his family dead. He said he then took the guns to protect himself.
But he admitted to the crime when pressed by police, telling investigators he
was "frustrated" with his mother. Deputies said he was "unemotional" and "very
stern" during the confession.
"The motive was purely that he was frustrated with his mother. He could not
articulate to our investigators any farther," Houston said. "In the time our
investigators spent with him, it was a very casual [statement], he was just
frustrated with how things were, and would not even articulate any further
details of that frustration."
"It's horrific," Houston added.
A police report from the incident shows that Griego admitted to having
"homicidal and suicidal thoughts" in the time leading up to the incident.
Griego reportedly gushed to police about his love for violent video games
during the interrogation, Houston said. He told police he loved to play Modern
Warfare and Grand Theft Auto.
"The suspect was involved heavily in games, violent games, it's what he was
into," Houston said. "He was quite excited as he discussed this with our
Houston said that Griego had occasionally lost touch with his family and then
reconnected with them multiple times in his life. He told investigators that his
father had taught him how to shoot the weapons and the pair had practiced
shooting them together.
The family asked the media not to politicize Nehemiah Griego's death.
"Our family has differing views on gun rights and gun control," the family
statement said. "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.
"He is a troubled young man who made a terrible decision that will haunt him
and his family forever," the family said.
MICHAEL S. JAMES and COLLEEN CURRY/ABC News