January 21, 2013 / 11:05 PM / 7 years ago

New Mexico man allegedly killed by son was prison minister, friend says

(Reuters) - A New Mexico man who police say was shot to death by his teenage son in a multiple homicide at the family’s Albuquerque home was a reformed gang member-turned-pastor who ministered to prison inmates, a friend of the man said on Monday.

Nehemiah Griego, 15, is in custody on two counts of murder and three counts of child abuse resulting in death for allegedly gunning down his father, Greg Griego, mother Sara, 40, and three of his younger siblings on Saturday night.

Steve Stucker, a longtime friend of Greg Griego, said Griego was an ex-convict who had turned his life around.

“Greg was dedicated to providing a good, godly home for himself and his kids,” said Stucker. “It’s very shocking for all of us who knew him.”

A report in the Albuquerque Journal said that after the killings, the suspect had intended to drive to a Wal-Mart and continue shooting. Instead, he phoned a friend and was convinced to go to Calvary Church, where his father was formerly a pastor, according to the report. A security guard called 911, the Journal reported.

Aaron Williamson, a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department deputy, would not confirm the reports the suspect had planned further violence.

Williamson said Griego, his wife and their three youngest children were each shot multiple times. According to Griego’s Facebook page, he had 10 children.

Nehemiah Griego was accused of using multiple firearms to kill his family, including an AR-15 assault rifle, Williamson said, the same type of weapon used in the mass shootings at an Aurora, Colorado, movie house and Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school.

The Newtown school massacre in which a man killed 20 children and six adults renewed a national debate about gun control. President Barack Obama has proposed a new assault weapons ban and mandatory background checks for all gun buyers.

Greg Griego, 51, was a former pastor at Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque and had volunteered at a local fire department.

Stucker said Griego left the detention center after a change in management. “I think they thought Greg was too overtly Christian,” Stucker said.

Stucker said he and Griego were chaplains together and had an interest in prison ministry. “Greg focused on adults and I focused on youth,” Stucker said. “He was a mentor, he was a lot more skilled and I was constantly going to him for advice.”

Stucker also said Griego had once been in the military and was working on a new project involving returned soldiers.

Stucker also spoke of the importance of finding a way “to care for Nehemiah Griego. He’s really hurting. We hope that he can be treated kindly, the way Greg might have treated someone.”

Reporting by Zelie Pollon in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Mary Wisniewski and Peter Cooney

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