ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico district attorney announced Friday she will have another county's prosecutor handle this week's shooting at a Roswell middle school due to conflicts of interest in the case.
Chaves County District Attorney Janetta Hicks pointed to her many connections to the community. She knows the parents of the 12-year-old boy accused of bringing a shotgun to Berrendo Middle School, opening fire in a crowded gym and wounding two classmates.
Hicks also attends the same church as the boy's grandmother, she has known the school principal her entire life, and she has worked with a grandfather of one of the victims.
"A prosecutor has a responsibility as a minister of justice and not simply as an advocate," she said. "These connections would render any handling of this matter by me subject to questions or criticism to the detriment of all parties involved. My prosecution of the case would become an unwarranted distraction."
Clovis District Attorney Matt Chandler has been appointed as the special prosecutor.
Authorities say the seventh-grade suspect brought a shotgun to school in a duffel bag Tuesday. A 12-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl were wounded, and a school staff member suffered minor injuries.
The seventh-grader was charged as a juvenile with three counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
While parents kept some students home this week, other children began returning to class Thursday. They were greeted by streamers, posters and other pieces of art put up by local artists in an effort to make them feel more welcome, the Roswell Daily Record reported (http://bit.ly/1mbsBuy).
Officials said the installation was meant to help the students, hundreds of whom witnessed the shooting.
"We're just here to do something nice for the community," said Roswell High Art Teacher Jessica Parham, who is coordinating the installation.
Students in the Free Art Friday club headed by Parham decided their efforts would be best spent comforting the afflicted.
Before students returned to school, Parham called on area artists to help in creating bulldog-themed art. Berrendo's mascot is a bulldog.
Roswell 10th-grader Candy Gonzales, 16, arranged paw-print cutouts into the shape of a heart.
"I think that kids their age shouldn't go through something like that," she said.
Gov. Susana Martinez said she visited the two wounded students, 12-year-old Nathaniel Tavarez and 13-year-old Kendal Sanders, on Wednesday. She said Kendal is expected to be released soon.
Martinez told reporters Nathaniel remained in critical condition at a Lubbock, Texas, hospital and doctors have repaired slight damage to his heart.
His face and head are covered in pockmarks from the shotgun pellets and both of his eyes were injured, Martinez said.