This week has been a little crazy for me.
The Town of Red River (New Mexico) held its 41st annual Memorial Day Motorcycle Rally last weekend (Friday & Saturday). It is arguably Red River’s biggest event of the year and tens of thousands of bikers were swarming through Taos County.
At about 5:00 PM on Saturday (5/27) gun fire could be heard in Red River at 400 East Main Street and the NM State Police along with local police descended on the scene within minutes. The violence that erupted was gang-affiliated, two motorcycle gangs – the Bandidos and the Water Dogs – had escalated a conflict. Eight people were injured, three of which were killed, all were gang members.
I was in Red River a couple hours before the incident as well as a couple hours after, not during the incident. Initially I drove up there to photograph the Memorial Day event. I never expected to return hours later to cover a crime scene.
When I drove up to the town the second time, the road was blockaded by the Taos County Sheriff’s Department. Even after showing them my press badge, they told me their orders are “no one comes into town.”
I turned my truck around, back-tracked a minute down the highway, and turned into a neighborhood to the town’s immediate west. A property owner was nice enough to let me park in front of his house after I told him I was a reporter trying to get into town.
“Just hop the fence right there,” he said pointing behind his house. “The Mexicans have been doing it for years.”
I climbed over one fence and walked onto one of the back roads that run adjacent to Main Street. My editor had previously informed me of a press conference to be held at the Red River Conference Center in the center of the town so that was my destination. On the way there, near the ski lift house, four County Sheriff deputies approached me. I introduced myself, show them my press badge, and they asked me, “you coming in or heading out?”
After explaining my intentions, they discouraged me from going further saying, “you probably won’t inside the building.”
The Sheriff deputies then continued their patrol past me to the west. They were all wearing bulletproof vests and carrying large rifles.
I made it to the Convention Center, photographing the area along the way, and sending the photos to my editor. At the Center I met an independent journalist from Texas (Laura Kenna, Laura and the Party Animals, https://youtu.be/3TOaJZeVchQ) who was also there for a press conference.
The press conference was not until the following morning but we did manage to get an exclusive interview with Mayor Linda Calhoun at about 9:30 PM who wanted to reassure the town that there was no longer any immediate danger to the town, all the suspects had been apprehended. The remaining danger was over potential retaliatory attacks between the two gangs.
As I was watching the story gain more traction statewide and eventually nationwide I felt pride seeing larger news companies citing the Questa del Rio News and using photos or video I had shot in those initial moments.