Girl dies in N.M. school shooting

MICHELLE KOIDIN
Associated Press Writer
Published Sunday, November 21, 1999

DEMING, N.M. (AP) -- A 13-year-old girl shot in the head at school died Saturday, the same day the father of the suspected shooter said his son had intended to kill himself but was jostled by others in the school lobby.

Araceli Tena died at a hospital in El Paso, Texas, where she had been rushed by ambulance after she was shot Friday at Deming Middle School.

Victor Cordova Jr., of Palomas, Mexico, was wearing a camouflage jacket when he fired a single shot from a .22-caliber handgun, police said. Police records list the boy as 13 years old, but his family says he is 12.

Cordova's father, Victor Cordova Sr., said during an interview in Palomas on Saturday that he talked to his son after the shooting.

"Yesterday I spoke to him and he said that he was going to kill himself," the elder Cordova said. "But when they went into the school that he was pushed and the gun moved."

Police said they have no information to corroborate the account, and the boy was being held Saturday in the Luna County jail.

He was charged Friday with attempted murder, assault, aggravated assault and aggravated battery, but investigators will be working with prosecutors to amend the charges, police said. Under New Mexico law, he cannot be charged as an adult.

The boy's family described him as intelligent but depressed. He was the oldest of three children, but spent a lot of time alone and had threatened suicide in the past, said his father. In February, the boy lost his mother to cancer.

Cordova was born in Deming and had gone to U.S. schools since kindergarten, said his father. He would walk across the border from Palomas each school day and board a bus for his classes 33 miles to the north in Deming.

Investigators said they were still trying to determine a motive for the shooting at the only middle school in this farming and ranching town of 15,000, said Carlos Viramontes, Deming schools superintendent.

Police declined to say where Cordova got the gun.

The boy's relatives said he has a temper, sometimes yelling and throwing things.

"According to some of the other kids -- I wasn't aware of this -- he would get violent because since his mother died recently, they would say stuff about his mother," said the father, a 36-year-old mechanic and construction worker.

He said his son no longer wanted to go to school in the United States and had complained that other kids were bothering him.

"I told him to stay over there, that he'd have more opportunities over there than over here," he said.

At Deming Middle School, classes will resume on Monday, with up to three officers at the school to make the children feel safe, said Bill Kuehl of the police department.

The school district had established an emergency plan following the fatal shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., Viramontes said. He said it wasn't clear how the gun got into the school.

Counselors met with about 100 students and parents earlier Saturday at the school.

"I think what you saw today was the whole gamut of emotions from fear to anger to I don't understand why this happened," Viramontes said. "I know that some of the children and some of the parents were a little more relieved when they left.

"But this is not going to be worked out in a two-hour counseling session. This is going to take a longer amount of time," he said.