ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Two homeless men who were allegedly beaten to death were remembered Saturday at a memorial service at an Albuquerque shelter.
About 100 people paid their respects to 44-year-old Allison Gorman and 46-year-old Kee Thompson at Noon Day Ministries, the Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1sh9Xro).
Family members of the victims, who both grew up on the Navajo Nation, said they believed the men were targeted because of their race. Both families shared a petition asking that the three teens charged with the killings receive hate crime charges.
Alberta Gorman Yazzie, Gorman’s sister, said her brother “was a very kind, humble and joyful man” who was “a big teddy bear” for his nieces. She said he had two children and one grandchild and used to be a champion rodeo steer wrestler.
Stephanie Plummer, Thompson’s sister, said her brother fell into a depression in 2005 after his nephew died and left the reservation. Plummer said they later got back in touch with Thompson but he did not want to return to the reservation.
“He’d come to think of the homeless people on the streets as his family, and that’s where he said he wanted to be, but he did have a home and people who cared for him and now cry for him,” Plummer said.
Both families also met earlier in the day at the crime scene, where they laid flowers and prayed in a circle.
“I just can’t believe these young kids, even as young as they are, they did something so bad, so brutal to my brother and his friend Kee,” Gorman’s sister, Elberta Holt, told KRQE-TV while standing in the dirt lot.
The teenage suspects have been held on murder charges since being arrested for the July 19 killings. According to police, the teens beat Gorman and Thompson using a cinder block, metal pole and their hands and feet while they slept in a vacant field. One suspect told police the trio had been targeting homeless people around Albuquerque for a year.
In the wake of the slayings, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry announced that he is forming a task force to address chronic homelessness among Native Americans in New Mexico’s largest city.
Berry met with Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and other tribal leaders last week. Data gathered by the city shows Native Americans are on the streets longer than other populations and are more likely to be victimized, Berry said. The group has agreed to work together to determine why and find possible solutions.