SANTA FE (KRQE) - High-profile civil rights attorney Mary Han may not have committed suicide in November 2010 despite what an Albuquerque Police Department investigation concluded, according to Attorney General Gary King.
King and his chief counsel, Dave Pederson, who decided to probe the case after receiving complaints from community activists, said the FBI helped the attorney general's office in its nearly year-long investigation. The inquiry found APD "terribly mishandled" the crime scene, according to the AG.
King said the cause of Han's death should be changed from "suicide" to "undetermined."
"This was not handled in accordance what anyone would characterize as standard police investigating techniques," Pederson said.
For its part, APD is not backing down from its investigative conclusions.
Han, 53, who often represented cases against APD, was found dead inside her BMW in the garage of her North Valley home. Investigators said she was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning.
Some of AG's office analysis includes:
- numerous individuals from APD and civilian city employees were allowed to access the death scene at Han's home
- items were removed or went missing from the scene which eliminated analysis of potential evidence
- a hasty decision was made by a high-ranking APD officer at the scene that Han's death was a suicide before an investigation was started
- insufficient witness interviews were conducted
The AG's review confirms what Han's family has alleged all along. According to a lawsuit filed by Han's family against APD and the city, police botched the case from the beginning.
The suit claims 26 APD officers and city employees, including several members of APD brass at the time, trampled the crime scene. According to the lawsuit, some officers were there to gawk and take pictures of her body.
The family claims Han's expensive jewelry went missing and other items, such as her laptop and cell phone, were allowed to be removed from the home without permission. The suit says APD ignored evidence that pointed to murder saying Han's BMW had an automatic shutoff to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning and the CO levels in her blood were too high to have been caused by a running car.
Interim APD Chief Allen Banks said he stands behind the APD investigation.
"I find it strange that the attorney general did not reach out to us," Banks said. "If they have additional evidence, I'd be more than happy to receive by that evidence and talk further on this, but at this point, I haven't heard anything from the attorney general on this."
Banks would not elaborate on the allegations outlined in the family lawsuit. But he did confirm the feds were asking questions about the case.
"The FBI has investigated the case. They received all the information and again, the attorney general has not reached out to us," Banks said.
King's office said it did not reach out to APD because it wanted to conduct an independent investigation.
"We are not in the position to have the authority to tell the Albuquerque Police Department to do or not do," Pederson said. "We would hope that they would take whatever criticisms we voiced into account, but that's up to them."
King said he considers Han's death to be an open, ongoing investigation and asks anyone with information about the case to contact the Attorney General's Office.
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