Monthly Archives: August 2021

Bennie Hargrove, 13, Was Shot to Death on a School Playground; His Killer’s Parents Should Accept Responsibility

My heart breaks for Bennie Hargrove’s family. They lost their boy.

On Friday, August 13th, Bennie Hargrove, age 13, was shot and killed by a bully on the third day of school. Known as a “peacemaker,” Bennie had approached Juan Saucedo Jr., also age 13, on the playground at Washington Middle School in Albuquerque, NM, asking him to stop intimidating his friends. What Bennie didn’t know was that Juan had a gun. (

It’s an all-too-familiar tragedy: Juan’s father, Juan Saucedo Sr., had not safely secured his loaded gun in the house. (Come on, Mom. You knew about this.) But the fact is, the son was only performing a violent action his father had modeled in the past. Here’s how that event went down:

In April 2018, Albuquerque’s KRQE TV reported, “There was a feud-turned-shooting between Saucedo Senior and another father in the pick-up line of Highland High School, just off school property. Court document and police lapel video revealed that mean looks and a confrontation escalated to Saucedo throwing a punch, while the other man grabbed a baseball bat. It eventually ended with Saucedo shooting and injuring the other man in the hand and thigh. At the time, Albuquerque Police seemed certain that both men would face charges.”

The arrest never happened. “The District Attorney’s Office never filed any charges saying both men were culpable but had valid self-defense claims.”

Bunk. Gun violence and physical violence should always be charged. They were disturbing the peace, traumatizing everyone around them.

Here’s another sample of the kind of parental behavior Juan had to look up to:  In 2015, Saucedo Sr. and his wife Luz Saucedo were subjects of a civil personal injury lawsuit following an altercation at Zuni Elementary School, which left a woman with a broken back.

The case was thrown out. Again, what kind of justice system allows this?

In my opinion, since the Saucedos have a history of violence, modeling aggressive behavior for their son, and since they they did not secure the loaded gun, they are culpable in Bennie Hargrove’s death.

Here’s a bit of science on aggression: When someone grabs a weapon, or punches and kicks with hands and feet, it means their fight-or-flight response system has kicked into high gear. Their “thinking brain” is switched off.  Stress hormones have escalated, and the brain stem has hijacked the frontal lobes, triggering the fight or flight response. It’s intended to keep a person alive in an emergency, not for hanging out with family and friends.

The idea that more guns are needed to keep ordinary people safe is just not true. Maybe in the deep woods while hunting bear and wild boar. But the potential for gun violence in the everyday life cannot be ignored. It’s not just gang members killing one another; it’s a toddler getting hold of a gun and shooting his mother in the face. A stray bullet entering the skull of a child celebrating the Fourth of July.  A child finding a gun in his father’s drawer and accidentally shooting his brother or sister. And this doesn’t even touch the subject of suicide, or racially motivated shootings, or mass shootings by mentally ill white men.

Underscoring aggressive behavior is aggressive speech. If you’re listening to hatred-laced shows on TV or radio, consider its ill effects on your state of mind. If you ridicule family members and neighbors in front of your kids, know that it hurts their young hearts. And your own.

Looking at his actions, Juan Saucedo Jr. seems like one damaged child. Like other kids who are unable to talk about their feelings, he acts out. Perhaps it’s because his parents failed to create a safe environment for talking about such things. Perhaps it’s to gain his parents’ approval, being the tough guy.  I’m no psychologist, but I can imagine the disconnect must be painful: not feeling free to be his true, authentic self – the person he was meant to be. The bully’s response to Hargrove, a protector, was “get out of my way,” as Hargrove prevented him from injuring someone younger and weaker. That empty space in Saucedo Jr., the space that lacks connection, must be a very lonely place indeed.

It’s too soon to know if the Saucedos will face charges. “Right now, New Mexico has not passed specific statutes about criminal penalties for irresponsible adults to secure a firearm. I know it’s been debated in the past, and I hope it gets a renewed hearing in the upcoming (legislative) session,” (Bernalillo County DA) Raul Torrez said.

I can imagine, however, that they will face civil charges brought by Bennie’s family. The school administration could bear at least some responsibility for failing to keep students safe. But charges may not change who they are, intrinsically. Or how they relate to their son.

Parents like the Saucedos rarely take a bullet for their child.

Bear in mind, that’s because some parents have no shame. They lack courage to stand in front of the judge and say, “We’re to blame. We allowed this to happen.”

Now Bennie Hargrove, he stood for something.  FFG.