On March 2, 2023, Juan Saucedo Jr. received the maximum sentence for his murder of Bennie Hargrove with his no contest plea. While Juan Saucedo will be released at the age of 21, the Hargrove family was able to feel some form of justice with Bennie's murderer finally being convicted and sentenced for his crime.
During the sentencing, the District Attorney read the below letter from Deandre Sewell, Bennie's brother, regarding the loss of his brother and the punishment that Juan Saucedo Jr. should receive:
"I am Bennie Hargrove's older brother and lived with him with his entire life. Bennie was a brave and never shy kid who loved to talk to everyone. He was a tough kid that was able to handle the life situations that we both went through really well. Overall, Bennie was my best friend. I almost felt like I helped raise Bennie and that relationship was taken from me with his murder leaving me with so many questions and no answers.
I will always remember when his boxing coach, James Applewhite, had Bennie and I put on the gloves and box each other and it surprised me how good he was for being so much younger than me. Or the thousands of times, he would be constantly dribbling the basketball and getting in trouble for making so much noise. Those experiences will never occur again because of Bennie's murder. I would like the Court to know that Juan took my best friend and he should be punished for the adult actions that he took. I do not know how something so little turned into something so outrageous and now Bennie was killed for nothing. Juan should receive the maximum punishment for his actions."
Next, James Applewhite, a good friend and mentor to Bennie, was able to provide his statement to the Court questioning why Juan was only being held to the age of 21 for his adult actions. Further, Mr. Applewhite called out the cowardly acts of Juan Saucedo in bringing a gun to school to kill an unarmed and defenseless child. He spoke from the heart on the fact that no punishment can ever bring back Bennie Hargrove and that his legacy was forever gone from Juan's actions.
Then, Bennie's grandmother, Vanessa Sawyerr, was able to speak and provided the following statement:
"Bennie was a funny, playful, smart and protective kid. He loved basketball and his family. He was so great with his younger brother and sisters. He would always say he has to take care of them because someone needed to help them. He would always teach them how to be fighters in life and would say “they have to learn” when grandma would try to stop him. He was always willing to argue as he thought he was right.
Bennie was a victim of bullying in the past and had learned that he needed to help those that were being bullied. Sadly, he died protecting other kids from a bully.
Bennie was the light of the family and now our light is gone. We are never the same anymore and are constantly lost without his presence. It is like we are all missing a part of our life confused as if we lost a leg or arm and can never be whole again. The family is lost and devastated down to our soul and it hurts every day.
There is no justice that we can receive because we can never get Bennie back. There is no punishment that can equate to the loss my family has received with Bennie's death. What hurts even more is that a child did this to another child and felt no remorse for his actions? The only thing I can ask for is the maximum punishment to Juan Saucedo as our family has already received the worst punishment a family and a grandmother can have in losing a child."
Subsequently, Bennie Hargrove's mother, Collette Wise, was able to speak from the heart regarding the family's loss of their light as Bennie was the heart and soul of the family. He was a child who was always playful and protective of his family at all times. It was that protective nature that lead him to stand up to Juan Saucedo for picking on younger kids. While Juan's actions can never be forgiven, Ms. Wise stated that she hopes Juan is able to turn his life around and understand the horror and pain that was brought forth to Bennie's family.
Finally, the Court played a video of an interview taken by the Wrongful Death Estate of Bennie Hargrove's attorneys, the Gauthier & Maier Law Firm and Attorney Frank Davis, of Bennie's grandmother and young siblings discussing the loss of Bennie and their memories of him.
Also a video from his Aunt Liz was played to the Court.
Following these presentations from the family, the Judge scolded Juan Saucedo on his actions in murdering a young Bennie Hargrove at Washington Middle School. The Court noted that Juan's actions caused a panic and pain to the children, parents, and teachers of Washington Middle School and the community as a whole because of the impact a school shooting can have. The Court sentenced Juan Saucedo to a maximum sentence to be held in CYFD custody until the age of 21.
Throughout this journey, the Gauthier & Maier Law Firm has been honored to be there with the Hargrove Family including Vanessa Sawyerr, Collette Wise, Bennie's brothers and sisters, and his extended family. We will continue to work hard to get Bennie the justice he deserves for the sacrifice that he provided in stopping a bully. Further, the Gauthier & Maier Law Firm will continue working with the Hargrove family in pushing Bennie's legacy with the Bennie Hargrove Gun Safety Act and the renaming of the Washington Middle School Park in Bennie's name. New Mexico's children should not have to fear going to school with the threat of gun violence. Yet, we have allowed an education system that fails to protect its students and fails to implement viable, cost effective safety measures until it is to late, especially in our schools that service lower socioeconomic areas. We must work hard to protect the future of New Mexico and create a better place for New Mexico's children. If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of negligence or intentional conduct of another, call the Gauthier & Maier Law Firm to see if we can help you achieve the justice you are owed.