ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Nearly a week after an Albuquerque Police SWAT standoff ended with a house fire and the death of a 15-year-old, APD Chief Harold Medina is now requesting an “independent review” of the incident. APD made the announcement in a news release Friday afternoon, asking the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office to lead the review.
The request is detailed in a single page letter signed by Chief Medina, dated Tuesday, July 12. In the letter, Medina writes, in part, “Out of an abundance of caution, I am requesting the assistance of [the Attorney General’s Office] to conduct a review of our handling of the incident but also to seek an independent analysis of the deployment and use of this specific device.”
The “device” Medina refers to in the letter is what investigators are now looking into as a possible ignition source in the house fire that broke out during the SWAT standoff early Thursday morning, July 7. APD says 15-year old Brett Rosenau died in the fire at a home in the 8100 block of San Joaquin SE, near Wyoming & Southern.
On Sunday, APD released preliminary results of an autopsy on Rosenau body, indicating the “cause of death” came from from smoke inhalation. The same preliminary results also confirmed that Rosenau was not shot. A full autopsy report with toxicology and CO2 results is expected to be released later by the Office of the Medical Investigator.
APD says it was trying to coax two people out of the home when the fire occurred, including 27-year-old Qiaunt Kelley and Rosenau. Kelley was wanted for questioning in multiple cases, including a June 2022 fatal shooting, a police shooting, and armed robbery.
Describing the events that lead up to the fire, Chief Medina wrote, “After several hours, APD used a “non-lethal device used by law enforcement in New Mexico and the federal government. An hour later, the house caught fire, resulting in Rosenau’s death.”
While the cause of the fire remains under investigation, APD has acknowledged that the device used by its SWAT team may have sparked the fire. “We believe a device used by tactical officer may have ignited the fire,” Medina wrote in the letter to the Attorney General’s Office.
The request for an investigation follows community outcry over Rosenau’s death. A groups of roughly 60 protestors demonstrated in the streets of Albuquerque last week after the incident. The ACLU of New Mexico has also demanded a “thorough, independent, and transparent investigation” into the incident.
So far, the Attorney General’s Office hasn’t responded to the request. In an earlier statement following the incident, the Attorney General’s Office said it would offer its assistance in the investigation.
In a statement about the request for an independent review, APD says Mayor Tim Keller spoke with the Attorney General to emphasize the request. “The tragic loss of a loving son and brother for one family, and the loss of a home for another is causing them and our community unimaginable pain,” Mayor Keller said in a news release. “For our community and department to move forward, a thorough and independent assessment into what happened and what can be done to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again is imperative.”
Notably, New Mexico’s Attorney General Hector Balderas will be forced to step down from the position in January 2023. Balderas, who’s served two terms in the position, will be replaced by the winner in the November general election race for the AG’s Office. Two candidates are seeking the seat, including Republican Jeremy Gay and Democrat Raúl Torrez.