A New Mexico State University fraternity member shot a pupil pledge during an initiation event at a campground, officials said.
Miguel Altamirano, 21, is facing charges of aggravated attack with a deadly weapon and negligent use of a deadly weapon while drunk in the Nov. 9 alleged hazing incident that left Jonathan Sillas injured in the leg at a campsite in Cloudcroft, according to a criminal complaint received by the Las Cruces Sun-News.
Investigators assert Altamirano “put a gun to [Sillas’] leg and pulled the trigger,” but he told deputies from the Otero County Sheriff’s Office that he didn’t believe the .40-caliber handgun was filled, the media reports.
“He drew out a gun, he cocked it back and then that’s when I began freaking out,” Sillas recalled to media. “He continued to press it on my leg and then I was like, ‘No, I don’t mess with stuff like that.’ … He was like, ‘Come on, everyone did it.’”
Sillas no longer has the equal “muscle strength” in his leg and remains shaken in the outcome of the shooting.
Students like Sillas who asked to become members of Kappa Sigma were forced to show their loyalty by carrying guns to their heads or other parts of their bodies — and then drawing the trigger, according to a report by the university’s dean of students.
A gun was not aimed at Sillas’ head during the incident, but Altamirano also drew the gun on other pledges without an episode, Sillas told media.
Other exercises that pledges were required to participate in included protecting delicate things like eggs as they were tackled near a campfire, according to the Dec. 18 reports received by the newspaper.
Kappa Sigma has been formally expelled from New Mexico State University through Dec. 31, 2024, as a consequence of the shooting, university officials said.
“New Mexico State University cares strongly about the health and welfare of our students,” a statement read. “This episode is unacceptable and indicates a serious violation of our plans, for which we have taken steps to hold any reliable individuals accountable.”
Altamirano’s lawyer, meanwhile, insists the shooting was simply a joke gone wrong.
“The proof, in this case, is consistent with negligent handling of a firearm and not the crime of aggravated attack,” attorney C.J. McElhinney said in a statement to the Sun-News. “My client never meant to injure anyone and was only kidding around in the context of a fraternity event when this unfortunate incident happened.”
Altamirano, who is no longer booked at New Mexico State, is facing up to three years in prison if sentenced. He’s due back in court in February.