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New Mexico teen Nehemiah Griego was 'heavily involved' in violent video games; relatives say he was 'troubled young man'
The Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department said Griego, 15, was 'unemotional' when he confessed to killing his family Saturday, but became excited when he spoke about video games. Griego will be tried as an adult in the grisly quintuple homicide.
By Erik Ortiz / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, January 23, 2013, 1:00 PM
The 15-year-old accused of gunning down his family was “unemotional” during his confession, but gushed when he spoke about violent video games, New Mexico police said.
The revelation sheds more light on alleged shooter Nehemiah Griego, whose relatives are describing as a “troubled young man” but not a monster.
“It is clear to those of us who know and love him that something went terribly wrong,” the family said in a statement Tuesday. “Whether it was a mental breakdown or some deeper undiagnosed psychological issue, we can’t be sure yet. What we do know is that none of us, even in our wildest nightmare, could have imagined that he could do something like this.”
Prosecutors said Griego will stand trial as an adult for the murders of his father Greg Griego, 51; mother Sarah Griego, 40; and three younger siblings, Zephania, 9, Jael, 5, and Angelina, 2, in their South Valley home Saturday.
Griego plotted the murders for a week before unleashing his carnage with multiple weapons, including a .22 rifle and an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department said.
After his arrest, he told investigators he was “frustrated” with his mother, but only seemed to show emotion when he spoke about video games he loved, such as “Modern Warfare” and “Grand Theft Auto.”
“It was kind of what he was into and was quite excited as he got the opportunity to discuss that with investigators,” Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston told reporters Tuesday.
The issue of violent video games and media was raised by the National Rifle Association last month in response to the rampage in Newtown, Conn., that left 28 people dead, including 20 school children and the shooter.
Gunman Adam Lanza had reportedly kept thousands of dollars worth of violent video games in his home.
NRA leader Wayne LaPierre said “vicious, violent video games” — and not guns — are to blame, in part, for America’s violent culture.
But David Ewoldsen, a communications professor at Ohio State University, said that time spent playing video games can’t be the only factor in how violently a person might snap.
Murdering people “would suggest there’s some type of underlying mental disorder there,” said Ewoldsen, who studies the genre. “You can sit down Gandhi and have him play ‘Grand Theft Auto’ for weeks and he’s not going to hurt somebody.”
Studies have shown no definitive connection between playing violent video games and a violent society.
“By and large, video games have much less an impact on us than people like to think. Neither are they homicide generators nor are they saving the world and making us smarter,” said Christopher Ferguson, the chair of Texas A&M International University's department of psychology and communication.
He added that video games get a bad rap because they're automatically associated with violence among young people.
“Odds are there will be more shootings and this issue will come up again," Ferguson said.
Officials didn’t say how much time Griego, who was homeschooled, might have spent playing video games.
His relatives, however, disputed reports that he was a loner and only wore camouflage gear. Griego had a girlfriend whom he spent the day with after killing his family, authorities said.
“He had many friends at Calvary (church) where he spent most of his free time playing basketball or music,” said the unsigned statement provided to ABC affiliate KOAT in Albuquerque. “Like his father, who was a champion wrestler and coach, Nehemiah also competed in wrestling tournaments throughout the state and country.”
They added that he enjoyed wearing his dad's military fatigues because he wanted to be a soldier like others in his family. New photos released by Griego's uncle, Eric Griego, a former New Mexico state senator, show the boy smirking in a suit and sitting behind a drum kit — apparently happier times in his life.
Relatives called him a "troubled young man who made a terrible decision that will haunt him and his family forever."
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