Jonathan Sillas, a sophomore majoring in criminal justice, was a Kappa Sigma fraternity pledge at the time the incident occurred. He and other pledges were on a weekend camping “retreat” in Cloudcroft, New Mexico, on Nov. 9, 2019, when fraternity member Miguel Altamirano, 21, allegedly pointed a .40 caliber handgun at Sillas and pulled the trigger.
The incident was reportedly part of a fraternity hazing ritual. There was also alcohol involved, according to numerous eyewitnesses interviewed by Otero County sheriff’s deputies.
Sillas indicated he was unaware at first that he’d been shot. “I didn’t even think I got shot, to be honest … My leg was just feeling like it got hit pretty hard, so then I just looked down and I noticed there was like smoke coming out of my leg,” Sillas said.
According to Sillas, fraternity members immediately applied a tourniquet to his leg and rushed him to the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico, where Sillas received treatment for a gunshot wound to his left thigh. He has since made a full recovery.
“I didn’t even think I got shot, to be honest … My leg was just feeling like it got hit pretty hard, so then I just looked down and I noticed there was like smoke coming out of my leg.”
In an incident report filed by the Otero County Sheriff’s Office, Altamirano told law enforcement officers on Nov. 9 the shooting was accidental. “I would never harm somebody unless it was to actually protect my life. [Harming someone] was not my intention. It was never my goal,” Altamirano said.
Altamirano was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault (use of a deadly weapon) and negligent use of a deadly weapon (under the influence of an intoxicant or narcotic), which is described in the incident report as a “petty misdemeanor.” Altamirano was later expelled from NMSU and is currently scheduled for a preliminary court hearing in February.
The Kappa Sigma fraternity has been suspended from the university until December 2024.
(Fiona St. Pierre contributed to this report.)
Watch the full, uncut video interview below: