(This article was originally published on March 21, 2014)
Despite Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden’s insistence that the recent officer-involved shooting in the foothills was justified, it’s already under attack. KRQE News 13 showed the shooting video to an attorney and to a civil rights leader who both closely watch APD’s use of force.
After watching the entire video, “I’m shocked, I’ve never seen a murder captured on videotape before,” said Joe Kennedy. Kennedy is an attorney who teamed with his wife Shannon to win a $10 million verdict against the city for APD’s wrongful shooting death of Kenneth Ellis in 2010.
“This is, I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” said Kennedy. He believes officers put themselves in danger last Sunday by getting too close to James Boyd. “You can contain, create distance and time, distance and time every police officer knows benefits the police officer.”
Peter Simonson of the ACLU said the current federal investigation of APD needs to include this case. “Was there another way to approach this situation that didn’t have to result in someone dying?” Simonson asked. “I think that is a serious open question and its a different question than that of whether is was justified or not.”
“We need a trustworthy investigation of incidents like this,” added Simonson.
Chief Eden emphasized that officers tried less lethal tactics like the flash bang, a taser shotgun and the K-9, but he insisted that in the end, officers had no choice.
“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,” said Eden.
“The big lie is anytime our officers shoot, they had a right to shoot because they felt threatened, and if this doesn’t convince this chief and this mayor that officers are out there killing people without justification, I don’t know what will,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy also points out that after repeated instruction to get on the ground, the suspect is turning away and is leaning toward the ground when officers fired six shots. “If they’re giving him an order to get down on the ground and he behaves in a manner that looks like he’s getting down on the ground, at what right do you have to shoot him?” said Kennedy.
Boyd does have a violent past going back nearly 20 years. A few years ago he punched an APD officer and broke her nose. He also sliced another homeless man with a box cutter in a fight outside a downtown shelter.
After the shooting, Boyd died the next day in the hospital.
The Department of Justice is close to finishing its investigation into the culture and use of force at APD, which could lead to wholesale changes in how the department is run. Individual cops could also face criminal charges.