ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Thursday, New Mexico’s Attorney General filed criminal charges against former Albuquerque Police Department officer Kenneth Skeens. The Attorney General alleges Skeens unlawfully arrested a customer in an Albuquerque Target.
“Today my office filed charges against former APD Officer Kenneth Skeens for his role in the unlawful arrest of a customer with disabilities who was struggling to complete his purchase at a Target located in Albuquerque in August of 2022. Rather than acting as a professional public servant and a guardian of vulnerable members of this community, Mr. Skeens engaged in abusive and unlawful behavior that undermined public safety and violated his oath as a peace officer in the State of New Mexico,” Attorney General Raúl Torrez said in a press release.
Police bodycam footage released by the Office of the Attorney General shows an officer conversing with an individual apparently trying to pay for a bicycle with cash at a self-serve checkout. In the video, the individual says, “It just took me a little while,” explaining that they have been trying to pay for a purchase but took some time to pull cash out of a pouch. In the video, cash can be seen on the checkout machine. The officer then says, “You took too long.”
Several times, the officer instructs the individual to collect the money before the officer picks up the bills while informing the individual that they will be charged with criminal trespassing. The officer then gives the collected money to the individual.
Officers then appear to try to walk the individual out of the store. In the video, the individual’s feet can be seen sliding against the floor as if they are trying to resist or are being forced. Outside the store, the individual sits on the curb before saying they’re not handing over their ID. When an officer asks the individual’s name, they reply “None of your business,” to which the officer responds: “Alright, then you’re under arrest.” The individual also calls the officer’s security guards.
The individual then tries to call 911 while surrounded by several officers. Police then forcefully take the phone from the individual. Then, several officers try to place handcuffs on the individual who can be seen on their knees and pressed toward the ground.
Near the end of the video, police explain that the individual is under arrest and would be charged with “concealing identity, resisting officers.” The police also re-identify themselves as police. The individual says “That’s not right. I was just paying my things.” The individual also says “I didn’t know you were police officers … I didn’t see your badges.”
Charges against Skeens
The Office of the Attorney General (AG’s office) is accusing one of the officers, Kenneth Skeens, with restraining the individual against their will. In a criminal information sheet submitted to the district court, the AG’s office accuses Skeens of knowing that he did not have the authority to legally detain the individual.
“I think it’s just outrageous that a police officer who should be in a position to try and help someone who is clearly struggling and is clearly dealing with some challenges, you know as a customer in that store, would end up in a position really abusing their power. And using, you know, just really excessive force,” Torrez says.
The AG’s office also claims that on the same day, Skeens made a false statement under oath related to the event and that Skeens intentionally made a false report to other law enforcement staff. The AG’s office alleges Skeens committed battery by unlawfully handling the individual they say is disabled.
“He clearly hadn’t committed a crime. And, in the absence of criminal activity, there was simply no justification for the officer to engage with him in the way he that he did and to escalate the situation in the way that he did,” Torrez says.
Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina says his office took action against Skeens after the incident came to light. Skeens was fired from the police department following the Target incident and a separate incident where Skeens reportedly violated department policy, according to comments by APD in an Albuquerque Journal story.
The attorney general commended APD for bringing the incident to his attention: “I think the Albuquerque Police Department deserves great credit for alerting us. They actually brought this to our attention when I was still at the District Attorney’s office.”
“They identified this incident as something that fell below their professional standards and their ethical standards and I think ultimately ended with Mr. Skeens termination from the Albuquerque Police Department,” Torrez says.
“We took immediate action when we learned about the allegations of unacceptable behavior by this individual who abused his oath as a police officer,” Medina said in a press release. “Our officers work hard every day to earn the trust of the people they serve. We appreciate the work of the Attorney General’s Office to hold this person accountable and ensure that no one is above the law.”
The attorney general says his office does not plan to file charges against the other two officers in the video, since Skeens was the one in control of the situation.
KRQE News 13 reached out to Skeens’ lawyer. They say they currently do not have enough information about the case to make a comment.