FEATURE PHOTO: As seen on a surveillance video, Jackson Weller returns to the area where witnesses said he was in a fistfight. Shortly later, Weller was shot dead (Mark Smith/Enchantment Sports).
By Mark Smith
Editor in Chief
It’s the most common question in the English language.
It is typically the very first one every child asks.
And it is often uttered by many on their death bed.
But for some reason, very few in Albuquerque are asking it of the University of New Mexico athletic department about the homicide of Lobo baseball player Jackson Weller.
It’s a question that can be launched in so many directions in the Weller tragedy. And it’s one gaining traction with every new detail that has come to light in the May 4 homicide in Nob Hill.
Enchantment Sports has spent more than 300 hours during its investigation of the killing, and has published detailed accounts that contradict the version UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez and Lobo baseball coach Ray Birmingham gave during a June 4 news conference.
The wesbite’s accounts, based on eyewitness interviews and viewing the surveillance video of the killing multiple times, also contradict the many reports in local media since the killing.
But Enchantment Sports’ reporting has, basically, been ignored in Albuquerque media.
Only the KKOB and KQTM radios stations have shown the chutzpah to air reports the powerful UNM athletic department apparently wished could be swept into the transparency abyss, along with so many other issues it has tried to bury over the years.
But we’re not going away.
While Enchantment Sports continues its investigation, with new details coming next week, here are some big-time “whys” to ponder:
- Why was Weller shot to death?
- Why did Nuñez and and Birmingham provide versions of the killing that an eyewitness calls “ridiculous,” and that the surveillance video contradicts?
- Why did Birmingham refer to Weller as “John Wayne,” and paint the picture that he died protecting a “first date,” when his late-night/early morning outing included him being thrown out of a bar, getting into at least one fistfight and returning numerous times to face a shooter who eventually took his life?
- Why was Weller and another man, also identified as a Lobo baseball player, exchanging words with the shooter in what witnesses say looked more like a disagreement, and not a heated argument?
- Why do all witnesses say the killing had nothing to do with the fistfight Weller, which apparently was apparently involved in more than 15 minutes earlier in front of a late-night food stand?
The three men on the street — Jackson Weller (left), a man who sources said is a Lobo baseball player (center), and the shooter (right) — exchange words before Weller was shot to death on May 4 (Mark Smith/Enchantment Sports).
- Why did Birmingham recruit Weller, who was a 23-year-old junior this season, and hadn’t played college ball since the 2016-17 season? Weller pitched just 31 innings as a sophomore in 2017, with one win, no saves, 30 strikeouts, 15 walks and a 4.35 ERA that year with GateWay Community College in Scottsdale, Ariz. Birmingham said Weller also had major arm surgery.
- Why was Weller considered a Lobo baseball player, when he had never played an official game for UNM, was not on the roster and was not on scholarship?
- Was Weller on some other type of scholarship, grant or financial aid, or was he paying out-of-state tuition? According to CollegeCalc.org, out-of-state tuition at UNM is $20,550 per year and on campus room an board is provided by the school at $9,662 per academic years.
- Why won’t UNM answer the question of Weller’s status?
- Why were at least two other Lobo baseball players, according to numerous sources, out with Weller in the wee hours of May 4, even though the Lobos had a key Mountain West Conference game scheduled that day at 2 p.m.?
- Why was the man, who sources said was a Lobo baseball player, exchanging words with the shooter and much closer to the shooter than Weller during much of the exchange between the three men?
- Why did it take Nuñez and Birmingham one month to present their version of what happened on May 4?
- Why, according to multiple sources, haven’t Nuñez, Birmingham or any UNM officials questioned business owners in the Nob Hill area about what happened?
- And one of the biggest head-scratchers: Why haven’t the major local media outlets – the Albuquerque Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican newspapers or KRQE, KOB or KOAT television stations – reported one word about the Enchantment Sports series?
Enchantment Sports isn’t about to sweep the stories under the rug.
And the guess here is that the national media won’t ignore it too much longer, either.
And the “whys” will be absolutely head-spinning.
Mark Smith has worked in New Mexico sports media for more than four decades, and is one of the most decorated sports journalists in state history. Smith has won more than 30 combined awards in print, television and radio. He is the editor in chief of Enchantment Sports. Contact him at mark.enchantmentsportsNM@gmail.com.