ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The president of the Navajo Nation on Wednesday denounced the killing of two homeless men that he said were members of the tribe and called for a meeting with Albuquerque officials about the attack.
Three teenagers have been charged with murder in the Friday night slayings. Police say the men were attacked while sleeping in a vacant lot and beaten beyond recognition with cinderblocks, bricks and a metal pole.
"It's beyond senseless that these teens would attack homeless people in this manner," tribe President Ben Shelly said in a statement. "The Navajo Nation is appalled that this type of attack is happening upon our people. We pray that justice will be carried out in this case."
Authorities have not confirmed the names or race of the victims and said they have no evidence that they were targeted because of their race.
While the killings were "a hateful act ... evidence to date doesn't indicate a hate crime occurred," Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said.
In interviews with police, the teens "didn't specifically say they were targeting Navajo people," police Sgt. Simon Drobik added. "That never came up."
Some states include the homeless in the groups of people protected by laws against hate crimes. However, state Sen. Bill O'Neill, D-Albuquerque, has been unsuccessful in trying to add the group to such laws in New Mexico.
In light of the fatal beatings, O'Neill told the Albuquerque Journal he plans to reintroduce legislation to protect the homeless.
Shelly, meanwhile, said he will work with the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission to request a meeting with Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry.
"We need to sit down and discuss possible solutions to assist the homeless population in Albuquerque," Shelly said.
A criminal complaint says a 15-year-old boy charged in the case told police that he had been attacking homeless people in Albuquerque for the past year with his 16-year-old brother and an 18-year-old friend.