As the sun set in downtown Albuquerque, a light breeze cooled the streets, causing some people to put their hands around the candles they had just lit for Brett Rosenau on Friday.
Friends, family, community members and justice advocates shared a sentiment: Brett should be alive and enjoying another summer night breeze in Albuquerque.
Rosenau, 15, died in a July 7 house fire during a SWAT incident involving the Albuquerque Police Department, which fired three types of projectiles into the home in the city’s International District. Police were trying to arrest Qiaunt Kelley, who at the time was wanted for a parole violation.
During the SWAT raid, police fired tear gas canisters, pepper spray and flash bangs which are currently being investigated for starting the fire, filling the house with smoke and killing Roseneau. The Office of the Medical Investigator says preliminary reports show he died from smoke inhalation.
Kelley faces no charges related to Rosenau’s death and it remains unclear why the teenager was home on July 7. Last week, Kelley was charged with the murder of a local photographer in June.
If the police started the fire that killed Brett, a tragic family history ensues. His father, whose teenager is named, was killed by a BCSO MP in 2006.
While all of those details were on the minds and in the conversations of people crammed into Tijeras and Fourth Street, the candlelight vigil for Brett Rosenau was a place to share collective grief. A person holding a sign with the words “Jail Killer Cops” in bold black ink was honked in support from passing cars, only lowered the sign to wipe away tears. “We shouldn’t have to be here,” she said.
But the people were there – Brett’s friend, relatives he hadn’t seen in weeks, and people he had never met.
Crystal Carmichael grew up with Brett’s mother and had known the teenager since he was a baby.
“I used to take care of him when he was little. His nickname is Bouba. We called him Bubba all the time,” she said.
Carmichael shone when talking about Brett’s humorous approach to life and mentioned his nickname because he came up when he was young, and later became the guy who gives everyone a nickname.
“He was always a very small child and when he was really small he was very stocky. And so it was just that it was just one of those names that’s stuck since he was a baby,” she said. “It was Bubba.”
His charismatic personality was fueled by his energy, which was often unleashed by any sport he might participate in, Carmichael said.
“Non-stop sportsman, every weekend, he plays football. My kids, he and his brother were running together. So we would see him every weekend at cross country or at his football practice and it was always sports related,” she said.
His small size did not hinder his position on the field or in a race. “He was very powerful. He was very fearless. He was very strong and brave. He was afraid of nothing. He was very outgoing and fun to be around,” Carmichael said.
She said the COVID pandemic halted many of her athletic activities and even how often she would see Brett. He invested some of his energy in repairing bicycles, collecting used parts to make bicycles for himself and his friends.
When the moon peaked over the Sandia Mountains, many took their grief home, leaving their candles in honor of Brett a block from the Albuquerque police station.
People leaving a mariachi event inside Civic Plaza stopped by to learn more about Brett and leave their condolences.
The impression Brett makes on the town would match his personality.
“He spent his whole life trying to be bigger than him and proving his strength and who he was,” Carmichael said. “He had to make sure everyone knew who he was. And so he made sure to make a scene.
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