ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The family of Christopher Torres, the mentally ill man shot and killed by officers in April 2011, has filed a federal lawsuit claiming the Albuquerque Police Department ignored a recurring problem of deadly shootings and inadequate dealings with people with disabilities.
The fatal shooting of Torres came on the heels of 16 police shootings in 16 months. Many of those involved people with mental illness.
Torres, 27, was sitting in the backyard of his parents' home in Taylor Ranch when two officers went to arrest him for a road-rage incident. The officers were dressed in plain clothes.
Torres family attorney Kathy Love said the officers looked like thugs and startled Torres, who was taking meds for schizophrenia.
Police said Torres reached for an officer's gun leading the other cop to shoot. The two officers said they didn't know about Torres' mental illness, but Love said they should have.
"(The family) told APD that if they ever had any encounters with their son that they should contact their son's family or his psychiatrist," said Love.
Love said the family told police about their son months before the shooting and blames the officers for not doing their research.
"Police departments are required to have systems set up that help all citizens and including citizens with mental illnesses," said Love.
The federal lawsuit filed Tuesday cites a deprivation of civil rights and a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act because officers failed to address Torres' medical needs, according to Love. The lawsuit claims APD did nothing to address its recurring problem of deadly police shootings until after the incident with Torres.
Since then APD has made changes such as creating a database on suspects with mental illnesses so officers can know that information before they step out of their patrol cars. But Love said it's too little, too late for the Torres family.
"The culture that has been created at APD, basically a culture of shoot first, ask questions later," said Love. "(The family) wants justice for their son. They want to know their son did not die in vain."
The family has already filed a civil lawsuit against APD with the state. APD had no comment on either lawsuit because they are both pending.
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