(Article originally published March 21, 2014)
Critics of the Albuquerque Police Department are raising serious questions about the fatal shooting of a homeless camper in the foothills, one even calling it murder. Meanwhile, the department says the shooting was justified.
In the department’s first news conference since the shooting took place, APD did something they normally don’t do, releasing the entire video of the incident.
Police say 38-year-old James M. Boyd is the man who was killed in the shooting last Sunday. So far, they’ve been unable to contact any of Boyd’s family members.
New Albuquerque Police chief Gorden Eden said Friday the video shows that the latest officer involved shooting is justified.
Boyd was arguing with police for more three hours last Sunday in the foothills after officers went to talk to him about illegally camping in open space.
During Friday’s press conference, Chief Eden released video of the moment when officers first contacted Boyd. When one officer went to frisk Boyd, the homeless camper could then be heard refusing to comply, saying he was a government agent. The video shows Boyd continued to refuse officer commands and began threatening their lives.
“I’m almost going to kill you right now. Don’t give me another directive. Don’t attempt to give me, the Department of Defense, another directive,” said Boyd at the beginning of the incident.
As the hours passed, Chief Eden said an APD Crisis Intervention Team officer and a State Police liaison were called to the scene. Both attempted to speak with Boyd, however, Chief Eden says Boyd continued to threaten officers with death. Police also discovered that Boyd had a violent 20-year criminal history that included multiple incidents of violence against officers. Boyd’s history also showed years of mental health related concerns.
Video shows when officers moved in on Boyd around 7:30 p.m on the night of the shooting. At the beginning of incident, Boyd can be heard saying, “In a private world, if you were down at a bar or a bus stop, I would have the right to kill you right now because you’re trying to take me over. Don’t get stupid with me!”
Video shows Boyd then began grabbing bags and attempted to leave when officers started their use of non-lethal force.
As Boyd is moving, officers then threw a flash bang and released a K9 which appears to bite Boyd in the hand. Chief Eden said officers also used a taser gun and bean bag rounds. Two officers, Dominque Perez and Keith Sandy then both fired three bullets each from their department issued rifles, causing Boyd to fall to the ground.
It’s unclear how many shots hit Boyd. APD says it is waiting on a report from the Office of the Medical Investigator to determine an exact cause of death.
However, the video is already raising some questions because of how Boyd appears to be turning away from the officers when bullets were fired.
Chief Eden called the shooting justified at the news conference, saying officers used non-lethal force first and that there was a direct threat made at an unarmed K9 officer. According to Chief Eden, Boyd was less than eight feet from the unarmed canine officer.
“Actually if you watch the video tape, all the less than lethal devices were in fact deployed. It was when the canine officer was down directing the canine dog that the suspect pulled out the two knives and directed a threat to the canine officer who had no weapons drawn. He was handling the dog,” Chief Eden said.
News 13 asked Chief Eden directly, “do you believe this was a justified shooting?”
Chief Eden responded, “Yes, if you follow case law, ‘Garner versus Tennessee’, there was directed threat to an officer.”
In the video recording, officer Keith Sandy’s gun can be heard firing around the exact same second as a beanbag gun. Officer Dominque Perez can be seen firing his gun next, after several pops are heard.
The press conference ended abruptly Friday without reporters being able to ask all of the questions they wanted. After taking questions for four minutes, an APD spokeswoman attempted to stop the press conference but Chief Eden took questions for two more minutes. After that, Chief Eden walked off, thanking reporters and saying “we’re good.”
News 13 wanted to ask why officers didn’t try to use a taser on Boyd again before moving in and why they didn’t have shields.
APD says the two officers who fired shots remain on leave.
One of the officers who was involved, Keith Sandy has a notable history in New Mexico law enforcement. APD hired Sandy in 2007 after he was fired by New Mexico State Police over the Wackenhut scandal. Sandy was accused of fraud for making money doing private security work while on the clock for State Police.
When Sandy was hired by APD, the department said he would be a civilian employee and he wouldn’t have a gun or a badge. However, Sandy quickly rose through the department, landing on the ROPE Team, which goes after repeat offenders or some of the city’s most dangerous criminals.