ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Two deadly shootings in opposite corners of the state and a crime rampage that left five people dead across northern New Mexico are among the stories that made headlines in 2017.
It marked another year in which violence spurred as many questions as calls for prayer and change as New Mexicans searched for answers.
In Clovis, parents, children and others hid as gunfire erupted inside the public library on Aug. 28. The shooting left two dead and four others, including a 10-year-old boy, seriously wounded.
The suspect, 16-year-old Nathaniel Jouett, pleaded not guilty to numerous charges. According to court records, he told investigators he was angry and initially intended to target his school.
About three months later in northwestern New Mexico, shots rang out inside Aztec High School. Two 17-year-old students were killed before the 21-year-old gunman killed himself.
Authorities say evidence left behind by William Atchison, a former student, indicated he carefully planned the attack and complained about work and life.
In June, police say Damian Herrera killed his mother, stepfather and brother before killing a man who stopped to help him when he ran out of gas and another man he encountered hours later at a gas station.
Herrera, who has yet to enter a plea, traveled roughly 200 miles in northern New Mexico before authorities captured him during a chase.
Here are some of the other top stories of the year:
BAIL REFORM AND RISING CRIME
An overhaul of the state’s bail system aimed at keeping dangerous defendants behind bars before trial quickly became the focus of legal disputes and legislative hearings.
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez called on lawmakers to repeal and replace the measure, saying the courts are using the new system to “return criminals to our neighborhoods.”
Voters approved a constitutional amendment last year to ensure dangerous defendants remain incarcerated, while allowing nonviolent suspects who can’t afford bail to be released.
District attorneys complained of the changes taxing their resources. Public defenders and reform advocates say New Mexico is on the right track in shifting to a system focused on balancing public safety and fairness.
The debate has festered as residents in Albuquerque complain about rising crime. The metro area claimed the top spot in the nation for auto thefts in 2016 and its recent mayor election focused on crime.
New Mexico became the first state to require law enforcement agencies to provide officers with overdose antidote kits. It marked the newest tool in what has been a decadeslong battle for the poverty-stricken state.
The number of annual drug overdose deaths has plateaued amid a series of pioneering policies to combat opioid addiction. Solutions have included a prescription monitoring database to prevent dangerous overlapping drug sales and increasingly expanding access to naloxone, a drug that can reverse overdoses.
Elected officials are looking to do more. State Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a lawsuit this year accusing opioid manufacturers and distributors of exacerbating the addiction crisis.
Lawmakers in December published proposed revisions to sexual harassment rules and disciplinary procedures in response to reports that widespread misconduct has gone unchecked.
Registered lobbyist Vanessa Alarid came forward to accuse former state Rep. Thomas Garcia of offering to vote for legislation in 2009 if she would have sex with him. Garcia has vigorously denied the allegations and said they were designed to damage his reputation.
In the state Senate, Democrats recently ousted Michael Padilla from a leadership post amid controversy over past sexual harassment allegations.
The second-term lawmaker from Albuquerque’s South Valley also withdrew from the lieutenant governor’s race amid mounting concern over the decade-old allegations that he harassed women at a prior job. Padilla has long denied the accusations.
With Martinez wrapping up her final term as governor, the race to replace her has set off a game of musical chairs. Republican Steve Pearce and Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham declined to seek re-election to Congress so they could run for governor.
And an open Albuquerque-based congressional seat has drawn a long list of candidates, including former state Democratic Party chairwoman Debra Haaland and former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez.
The race in New Mexico’s southern district includes former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman and state lawmaker Yvette Herrell.
CLERGY SEX ABUSE
Hundreds of pages of court records related to sexual abuse allegations against clergy members were made public in response to an order from a New Mexico judge. It marked the largest disclosure of such records since people began suing the Archdiocese of Santa Fe nearly three decades ago.
Church officials said they hoped the disclosure and publication of a list of clergy accused of sexual misconduct would serve as an additional step in healing for victims, their families and parishioners.
Shipments to the federal government’s only underground nuclear waste repository resumed in April following an expensive recovery effort and a major policy overhaul prompted by a 2014 radiation release.
The mishap was triggered by a chemical reaction inside a drum of waste that had been inappropriately packed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The northern New Mexico lab has since been called out for mishandling nuclear material.
The federal government began accepting bids this year for a new contractor to manage the troubled lab.
Paul Krebs, longtime athletics director at the state’s flagship university, announced his retirement amid inquiries into the handling of public money within the University of New Mexico’s athletics department.
The attorney general’s office has been investigating since late May after tens of thousands of dollars was spent on a 2015 golf trip to Scotland that included athletics officials and private donors. Prosecutors are looking at whether there were possible violations of conduct laws and the state Constitution’s anti-donation clause.
The state auditor announced in November that a special audit of the department and affiliated fundraising groups found a lack of financial controls over public money, resulting in unpaid access to luxury basketball arena suites, overpayments to coaches and donor perks of golf and alcohol that failed to elicit donations.
The university says it has instituted new controls and oversight of athletic finances.
New Mexico took a novel step to quell the outrage against lunchroom practices that can humiliate children as public school districts nationwide examined how to cope with unpaid student lunch debts.
Martinez signed legislation to ensure children are served meals even if their parents do not pay on time. The new law also prohibits schools from calling attention to children whose lunch accounts are overdrawn to avoid any stigma. Advocates say no other state had taken such a step.
Public education officials also considered adopting science standards that would have deleted or omitted references to evolution, human contributions to global warming and the Earth’s age.
They dropped the changes after scientists and engineers from Los Alamos National Laboratory joined with others in protest.
LEAVING A LEGEACY
New Mexico’s longest serving senator, Pete Domenici, died in September of complications from abdominal surgery. He was 85.
The Republican rose to become a power broker in the U.S. Senate. He was remembered most for his ability to reach across the aisle and for his unflagging support of the state’s military installations and national laboratories.
He also was known for his work on the federal budget and energy policy over a career that spanned more than 30 years.
News of his death spurred a moment of silence at the Capitol in Santa Fe. Republicans and Democrats said Domenici was someone who put politics aside for the benefit of the people.