Federal officials close investigation into death of James Boyd

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The U.S. Attorney’s Office says the James Boyd case has officially been closed. That means no federal charges against the two Albuquerque Police Department officers who shot and killed him.

APD officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez were both charged with murder in state District Court for the shooting death of the homeless camper in 2014.

Their trial ended in a hung jury and the District Attorney eventually dismissed the charges, but the case was still being reviewed by federal prosecutors to see if the actions violated the federal civil rights statutes.

Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said career prosecutors and investigators reviewed the evidence thoroughly and found insufficient evidence of that, citing among other things that the officers fired only after reasonably perceiving that Boyd posed a serious threat to a fellow officer, that Boyd was brandishing two knives and was close to a canine handler, that officers were aware of Boyd’s violent criminal history, mental illness and repeated threats to kill officers.

Read the DOJ’s full statement below:

After a careful and thorough review into the facts surrounding the shooting, federal investigators determined that there is insufficient evidence prove beyond a reasonable doubt a violation of the federal statute.  The evidence, when viewed as whole, indicates that the officers fired only after reasonably perceiving that Boyd posed a serious threat of physical harm to a fellow officer.  At the time of the shooting, Boyd was brandishing two knives and was in close proximity to a canine handler.  Additionally, the officers were aware of Boyd’s violent criminal history, mental health issues, and his repeated threats to kill officers during the standoff.  Consequently, there is insufficient evidence to prove that the officers’ uses of deadly force were objectively unreasonable.

The Department of Justice is the one that oversaw APD reforms to curb excessive force incidents amid the Boyd investigation. Tuesday, Keith Sandy’s attorney and the Boyd family reacted to the DOJ’s decision.

According to a release officials from the Department’s Civil Rights Divison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico and the FBI met Tuesday with Boyd’s family and their representatives to inform them of the decision.

The federal review sought to determine whether the evidence of the events that led to Boyd’s death were sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any officer’s actions violated the federal criminal civil rights statutes.  Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights laws, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a law enforcement officer willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right.  Courts define “willfully” to require proof that a defendant knew his acts were unlawful, and committed those acts in open defiance of the law.  It is one of the highest standards of intent imposed by law.

The city did still pay out $5 million to Boyd’s family after they filed a civil lawsuit.

Tuesday, the Boyd family released the following statement:

The Boyd family profoundly appreciates the uphill battle each and every family experiences in the wake of having a loved one taken unnecessarily and violently by law enforcement officers.  The Boyd family appreciates fully the amount of public resources expended by the Justice Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico and the FBI to investigate the tragic death of James Matthew Boyd.  His death galvanized the City of Albuquerque to make swift and lasting change within the City of Albuquerque police department that has no doubt saved lives.

Andrew Jones intends to continue to participate in the reforms that the Department of Justice has initiated within the City of Albuquerque police department and expects that the City of Albuquerque will reform its training to keep citizens and officers safe. Mr. Jones hopes that the legacy of his brother is that the City of Albuquerque police department will never again take the life of anyone without just cause.

As for the officers, Keith Sandy retired after the shooting. Officer Dominique Perez fought to get his job back and did. 

James Boyd Related Coverage»

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