As another year draws to a close, the Santa Fe Reporter looks back on the best-read stories from local journalists that appeared on our free website. While the fatal shooting on a movie set in Santa Fe County drew the most eyeballs, coverage of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the weekday Morning Word and local breaking news about surges from new variants, vaccine rollouts and statewide public health orders dominates the list. Two stories about police officers fatally shooting people also garnered our readers’ most attention.
Documents: Alec Baldwin Fired ‘Live’ Ammo in Accidental Shooting
Published Oct. 22 : 11,236 Views
An assistant director on the set of the film Rust—at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe County—retrieved a “prop gun” from a rolling cart and handed it to one of America’s best-known actors on Thursday, Oct. 21.
“Cold gun,” the assistant director shouted.
Moments later, Alec Baldwin fired a shot that struck cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in the chest and director Joel Souza in the shoulder. Hutchins, 42, was airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, the state’s only Level-1 trauma center, where she died. Souza, 48, was released from Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe.
The first publicly available sequence of events that led up to the shooting comes from a search warrant affidavit sworn out by Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Det. Joel Cano. As of Dec. 30, no charges had been filed in the case, the district attorney says she has not ruled out prosecution, and the investigation continues. Read the rest of this story here and more of SFR’s Rust coverage here. (Jeff Proctor and Julie Ann Grimm)
Published Dec. 20: 11,218 Views
A dancer, Aria, talks about god-knows-what with Katie at the bar. Two Chicanos wait patiently and place a few quarters on the edge of the pool table, which is the universal sign for “we’re next.” Meanwhile, a different dancer climbs to the top of the pole and hangs on with only her thighs.
“Jeezus, I really need to get to the gym,” I think to myself.
Katie, my bisexual pal and fellow night owl, darts from the bar to my table: “They’re shutting down!” she yells over the music.
“No, they’re not,” I reply. “It’s only 9. They close at 2.”
“Dipshit!” she responds. “No. Cheeks is closing.”
Aria, a young blonde who travels from Albuquerque to Santa Fe every weekend for this gig, sits at my table. “It’s true. We’re done.” Read the rest of the story here. (Simon Moya-Smith)
Delta Variant Cases Growing in New Mexico
Published June 23: 9,789 Views
The Delta variant has arrived in New Mexico and is increasing swiftly.
The health department’s most recent epidemiology report on variants of concern—so classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—marks the Delta variant’s first appearance in said report. It notes that the state has sequenced 18 such specimens with the variant and matched 17 of them to cases—meaning investigators were able to contact the patient in question.
“That is indeed the first appearance of that variant,” DOH spokesman David Morgan tells SFR, “It has to be cause for concern, particularly among our unvaccinated population, both here in New Mexico and across the United States.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has designated three tiers of COVID-19 variants: ones that are of interest, concern and high consequence. Variants of concern can have increased transmissibility and, potentially, substantially decreased susceptibility to treatments along with increased severity of illness. In the case of the Delta variant, aka B.1.617.2, first identified in India, its faster transmissibility—60% higher than the B.1.17 variant according to some estimates—prompted Dr. Anthony S. Fauci to describe it as “…the greatest threat in the US to our attempt to eliminate Covid-19.” Read the rest of the story here. (Julia Goldberg)
NM Extends Indoor Mask Mandate and Expands Vaccine Booster Eligibility
Published Nov. 11: 7,955 Views
New Mexico expanded booster shot eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to all adults on Friday, the same day it extended an indoor mask mandate through at least Dec. 10. “Case counts are significant, spread rates are far too high, and the Delta variant is far more transmissible than previous variants. In addition, our hospitals are well beyond capacity, and several have declared Crisis Standards of Care,” said Department of Health Acting Secretary Dr. David Scrase in a news release. “Those factors absolutely make New Mexico a high-risk setting.” New Mexicans aged 18 and over may now schedule a booster shot if they received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than two months ago or they completed the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine series more than six months ago. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not expanded booster recommendations to all adults, New Mexico joins California and Colorado in doing so. “As we have throughout this unpredictable and unprecedented global pandemic, we always stand ready to quickly implement new tools and policies in our fight against this terrible disease,” reads a statement from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “I strongly encourage every New Mexican to register for a booster today–we have appointments available and are ready to get shots in arms.” Read the rest of story here. (Julia Goldberg)
Laguna Pueblo Woman Says She Faced Discrimination at Santa Fe Spirits Tasting Room
Published Sept. 20: 7,522 Views
Amanda Cheromiah (Laguna Pueblo) recently earned her doctorate in higher education from the University of Arizona, and returned home to the Santa Fe area to reconnect with family and friends during a brief visit from Tucson, Arizona, where she now lives. But what was meant to be a fun night out over the weekend soured, Cheromiah says in a recent semi-viral Tik-Tok video, when an employee of the Santa Fe Spirits Tasting Room in downtown Santa Fe displayed a pattern of discrimination by refusing her party service on Saturday night—and then offering service to a white party that came in shortly afterward.
“We were not the only people there,” Chermoiah tells SFR. “This is very quaint, small spot, and it has that homey feel, so when you go into the main area, you can easily see everybody in that space. There were other customers, musicians playing, and I was thinking it’s a really cool spot, I’d like to take my mom there.”
Cheromiah says she believes the server on duty acknowledged her party, but that shortly after their arrival, he made his way outside where he stayed in conversation with a former Tasting Room employee for well over 10 minutes.
“By this point, we were wondering why we weren’t getting served,” she says. “My friend went to the doorway and asked the waiter two questions in a very calm voice: ‘Are you the only bartender here, and can we get service?’ The server responded that [my friend] was being condescending, and then he refused to give service.” Read the rest of the story here. (Alex De Vore)
New Mexico Announces New Groups Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine
Published Jan. 1: 7,381 Views
As of today, people 75 years and older; those with underlying conditions (16 years and older) putting them at greater risk from COVID-19; frontline employees unable to work remotely and residents of congregate care settings in New Mexico all are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The health department announced the official start of Phase 1B for its vaccine rollout, following the initial vaccination of frontline health care workers. According to the state’s vaccine allocation plan, those groups falling into Phase 1B will be vaccinated sequentially, with people 75 and older prioritized first. Underlying conditions qualifying people who are 16 years and older include cancer, chronic kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, among many others listed in the plan. Childcare providers, K-12 educators and grocery store employees are among those listed as potential frontline employees unable to work remotely.
“This is welcome news and a critical step in getting back to the educational gold standard, which is in-person learning,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said in a news statement. Read the rest of the story here. (Julia Goldberg)
Two Dead in Less Than a Day
Published June 24: 4,961 Views
Late Wednesday evening, a Santa Fe County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed a man on Siler Road, just north of Rufina Street. The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office said deputies were sent to Lopez Lane to investigate an aggravated assault earlier in the evening and the assault victim provided deputies with a description of the vehicle the accused was driving. It marked the second time cops have fatally shot someone in 12 hours—after a Santa Fe Police Department officer shot and killed a man outside Loretto Chapel around 11 am Wednesday. Read the rest of the story here.
As of Dec. 30, it was unknown whether department leaders believe officers who fired the fatal shots followed policies because officials keep those records secret from the public. SFR has an ongoing lawsuit against the city seeking court affirmation that the state Inspection of Public Records Act requires disclosure of such information. (William Melhado and Jeff Proctor)
New Mexico Releases Vaccine Booster Guidelines
Published Aug. 8: 4,908 Views
Serena Rodriguez’ kidneys failed when she was 4 1/2 months pregnant with her daughter, leading to a kidney transplant in April of 2013. Yesterday, she had her third COVID-19 vaccine shot, following approval for some immunocompromised groups, such as people who have undergone solid organ transplantation or have conditions that are considered comparably immunocompromised.
“I was very relieved, very happy and very grateful as well,” Rodriguez said.
DOH today released guidelines for the third dose, which applies only to the Moderna or Pfizer mRNA vaccines; the federal government has not approved an additional dose for the single-shot J&J vaccine. A health department news release said eligible patients are encouraged to schedule the third dose with their medical team and can also schedule a third dose through vaccineNM.org if they have selected an immune-suppressing condition in their medical profiles. Eligible groups include people in active treatment for solid tumor and hematologic malignancies; recipients of CAR-T-cell or hematopoietic stem cell transplant who are within two years of transplantation or taking immunosuppression therapy; people with advanced or untreated HIV infection; people with moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency; and people in active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids; alkylating agents; antimetabolites; transplant-related immunosuppressive drugs; cancer chemotherapeutic agents classified as severely immunosuppressive; tumor-necrosis blockers; and other biologic agents that are immunosuppressive (read more here). Read the rest of the story here. (Julia Goldberg)
Pulling the Trigger
Published May 26: 4,865 Views
Officer Gene Gonzales drew a bead with his AR-15 rifle on Richard Romero after a long vehicle chase. Romero had fired a gun at law enforcement. Gonzales, a 12-year veteran of New Mexico State Police, pulled the trigger eight times, striking Romero with all but one of his bullets.
Romero, who was 49 and from Los Lunas, was likely living with an undiagnosed mental illness and suffering from suicidal ideations. He died at the scene along Interstate 40 near Laguna Pueblo.
A fellow officer said Gonzales appeared “tense” after the exchange of gunfire on Oct. 17. As is common practice, he was placed on paid leave after the shooting to gather himself and let an investigation proceed—but only for about three weeks, a relatively short period of time, experts say.
He was back on patrol by Nov. 13.
Six days later, Gonzales fatally shot Rodney Applewhite, a 25-year-old Black man who was traveling through New Mexico from South Bend, Indiana. The case grabbed national attention and, initially, few answers from the consistently transparency-averse State Police. Read the rest of the story here. (Austin Fisher)
New Mexico Suspects First Ivermectin Death
Published Sept. 8: 4,651 Views
New Mexico may have seen its first case of a death caused by the prescription drug ivermectin, a drug not approved as a treatment for COVID-19, but nonetheless reportedly experiencing a surge of use.
The drug, in its human form, has approval from the Food and Drug Administration for people with intestinal strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis (two conditions caused by parasitic worms), and some topical forms of ivermectin are approved to treat external parasites like head lice and skin conditions such as rosacea. The animal form, which is different, is also used for parasites and for heartworm disease.
None are appropriate for COVID-19, Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said during today’s weekly update on COVID-19 update. Nonetheless, he said he had heard, unofficially through what he described as a reliable source, that one person in New Mexico may have died from taking the drug for COVID-19 and another may be in critical care.
“It’s mainly a veterinary medicine for parasite infections,” Scrase said, noting there is, nonetheless, “a cult following for this drug.” The state’s Medical Advisory Team, he said, “has looked at it three times. We don’t think there’s evidence to be effective in treating COVID by any stretch of the imagination.” Scrase said more information about the person who may have died from taking ivermectin will become available once it has been fully investigated and a death certificate has been issued. The drug can be lethal, he said, and cause a variety of issues, and encouraged New Mexicans to call the poison control hotline if they or anyone they knew had taken ivermectin (1-800-222-1222). Read the rest of the story here. (Julia Goldberg)
‘The Forgotten Battle’ Review
Published Oct. 27: 4,409 Views
It’s hard to put a finger on what is forgotten about The Forgotten Battle. The Battle of the Scheldt has a highly detailed Wikipedia page, for example, and while that’s hardly a reliable source, it’s fair to say the film’s subject seems anything but forgotten. One then assumes it’s a metaphorical thing, right? But no—there’s no indication that anything shown in the film is lost to memory or history.
Weird titles aside, as World War II closes, the Netherlands are on the cusp of liberation as the critical Belgian port of Antwerp becomes a major strategic prize. Marinus (Gijs Blom), a German solider by choice, begins to discover that Nazis are, in fact, kinda shitty, whilst Teuntje (Susan Radder) joins a Dutch spy ring and a British bad-boy-with-daddy-issues (Jamie Flatters) wants to prove to everyone he can move beyond his father’s influence. Expect that ubiquitous blue-gray color palette of most WWII movies. Read the rest of the review here. (Riley Gardner)
Gov. Lujan Grisham Reinstates Mask Mandate
Published Aug. 17: 4,378 Views
Citing rising cases of COVID-19 fueled by the Delta variant, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham today announced masks will once again be required indoors as of Friday, Aug. 20.
“This is familiar territory,” the governor said during an afternoon news conference outlining both the new mask requirement and a host of vaccine mandates for school and health care workers. “What we must do is enact policies that reduce the rate of infection. We know the pandemic is not over and that we are in a pivotal moment in the state. So our top top priorities are always: saving lives…and protecting our hospitals, but we can’t continue our economic recovery and our positive economic journey if we have out-of-control COVID cases in the state of New Mexico.”
The new requirement, outlined in a public health order from Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase, remains in effect through Sept. 15 and applies to anyone over the age of 2 except when eating or drinking, regardless of vaccination status. Read the rest of the story here. (Julia Goldberg)