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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s largest city is reviving a task force to address Native American homelessness after a homeless man was shot and killed last month.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller announced Friday that he was resurrecting the Albuquerque Native American Homeless Task Force and would ask city councilors to pass an ordinance to expand its reach.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for us to go back and refresh the organization,” Keller said at a press conference for the city’s upcoming Gathering of Nations, one of the largest powwows in North America. “Not only will the task force look into homelessness but also economic development and it will work with our tribal governments.”

The task force was initially formed during former Mayor Richard Berry’s tenure in response to the 2014 beating deaths of two Navajo men while they slept in a vacant lot.

In the latest case, police said two Hispanic teenage boys shot 50-year-old Ronnie Ross “for fun.” Ross was from the Navajo community of Shiprock.

Court records show that Ross had been released from jail less than 48 hours before his body was found riddled with bullets. He had been arrested for trying to steal a basket full of clothes and shoes from a Walmart, court records said.

A criminal complaint in his killing doesn’t identify a motive, but it said the teen suspects bragged to friends about the shooting.

Keller said, although he wasn’t an attorney, he believes the killing was a hate crime. “I don’t think any mayor can sit here and say this was not a hate crime,” he said.

Albuquerque police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said investigators and prosecutors would determine whether the crime fits the legal definition of a hate crime.

“But regardless of whether that law applies, there is a disturbing number of violent crimes being committed against the most vulnerable people in Albuquerque, including people experiencing homelessness,” Gallegos said.

In Albuquerque, Native Americans make up only 4 percent of the population, but account for 44 percent of people living on the streets, raising the likelihood they will be victimized when there is an attack on the homeless.

A 2014 survey showed 75 percent of homeless Native Americans in Albuquerque had been physically assaulted.


This story corrects a previous version to say Ross had been released from jail less than 48 hours before his body was found riddled with bullets.


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