Another Shooting Puts Albuquerque Police Back In The Spotlight

Jan 14, 2015
Originally published on January 14, 2015 5:33 pm

On Tuesday night, officers shot and killed a suspect who they say fired at them. Earlier this week, the county district attorney said she would seek murder charges against two other officers in the shooting of a homeless man last year.

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Albuquerque is the latest city to face protests over its police department. Last night, police shot and killed a man who, they say, fled from police and then fired at them. NPR's Kelly McEvers report.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Fire the man, fire the chief, fire the (inaudible).

KELLY MCEVERS, BYLINE: A few dozen activists in Albuquerque went out in the snow today to stand in front of police headquarters and protest last night's shooting. Police say they responded to suspicious criminal activity last night. They say they caught one suspect. The other one ran, then fired at police. Police say they returned fire and killed him. They have not yet released the suspect's name. The two officers involved were put on leave, according to police department policy. Earlier this week, the district attorney in Albuquerque's Bernalillo County brought murder charges against two other officers in the shooting death of a homeless man named James Boyd. Last spring, police said Boyd was illegally camping on the side of a hill. After an hours-long standoff with police, caught on camera by one officer, and later released as this video, Boyd says he's ready to surrender. Police move in.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Get on the ground now.

MCEVERS: Boyd picks up two knives then turns his back then...

(SOUNDBITE OF GUN)

MCEVERS: Boyd is shot three times. He died the next day. Defense attorneys for the two officers charged with murder in this shooting - Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy - say they acted to protect other officers, just as they have been trained. Prosecutor Kari Brandenburg told reporters this week that rather than bringing the case against the two officers to a closed grand jury, as with high-profile cases in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City, the evidence in this case will be heard in open court proceedings.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KARI BRANDENBURG: We want to share all of that information with the public. We want them to see it as it's unfolding. I think that that's critical to be transparent and I believe that that will be part of the healing process.

MCEVERS: Under Brandenburg's term as district attorney there have been dozens of officer involved shootings. Those have gone to grand juries. No criminal charges have ever been filed. Civil cases have awarded millions victim's families. A year-and-a-half long investigation by the Justice Department found Albuquerque police use excessive force. Albuquerque has now agreed to a court mandated plan to retrain police and close down units that were involved in violence.

The difference in the James Boyd case, Brandenburg says, it that her office finally had probable cause to bring criminal charges against police - in the form of that video. Legal experts say it's one of the first times police will be charged with murder using evidence from a camera. Police say these videos only present one view of events, but advocates for the camera say police and citizens are on better behavior when they know they're being filmed. Kelly McEvers, NPR News.

BLOCK: Rita Daniels, of member station KUNM, contributed to this report. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.